Assange showing symptoms of 'psychological torture': UN

Statement accuses the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador of "ganging up" on Assange to "isolate, demonise and abuse" him.

    Melzer said he was 'gravely concerned' that Assange would face a 'politicised show trial' in the US [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]
    Melzer said he was 'gravely concerned' that Assange would face a 'politicised show trial' in the US [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has shown "obvious" signs of the psychological torture inflicted on him due to years of confinement and persecution, according to a United Nations human rights expert.

    Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture visited Assange in prison in the UK, where he is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012.

    Melzer made the visit on May 9 along with two medical experts who specialise in examining potential torture victims. They were able to meet "in confidence and to conduct a thorough medical assessment", the UN said. 

    "It was obvious that Mr Assange's health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years," Melzer said in a statement released on Friday.

    In addition to physical ailments, Assange showed "all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma," the statement read.

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    Last month, police dragged Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012.

    The Australian national faces a slew of charges from several countries, including a preliminary investigation in Sweden over an alleged rape in 2010.

    Last week, prosecutors in the United States brought a new 17-count indictment against Assange for obtaining, conspiracy to receive and disclosure of classified information. These counts are in addition to previous charges of his interactions with US army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning

    Extradition to US

    Assange has been fighting extradition to the US since Ecuador revoked his asylum in April, with pressure mounting on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to deny his extradition on human rights grounds. 

    "I am seriously, gravely concerned that if this man were to be extradited to the United States, he would be exposed to a politicised show trial and grave violations of his human rights," Melzer told reporters on Friday

    In the statement, he argued that the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador were "ganging up" on Assange in an attempt to "deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse" him.

    Over the past nine years, Melzer said, Assange was exposed to increasingly severe abuse ranging from judicial persecution, isolation and surveillance within the Ecuadorian embassy, as well as public humiliation and repeated calls for his assassination. 

    "In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law." 

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies