WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange experiencing mental health issues due to possible espionage charges


According to a psychiatric expert in London Tuesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is “very likely to attempt suicide” if he is sent to the United States to face espionage charges. 

Assange faces 18 charges under the U.S. Espionage Act relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington claims he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the documents before exposing confidential sources around the world. If convicted, Assange — who has been held at Belmarsh for the last 16 months — could be jailed for up to 175 years (CBS). 

Assange’s defense team argues that he is a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections for publishing leaked documents that exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also say the conditions he would face in prison would breach his human rights. The extradition hearing in London began Sept. 7 and is due to last until early October, with Judge Vanessa Baraitser likely to take weeks or months to make her decision. 

Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, has said he visited Assange in Belmarsh Prison about 20 times. “As far as a psychiatrist can say, yes, I considered the risk of suicide should extradition become imminent or actually happen to be very high,” he said. “He’s made various plans and undergone various preparations, such as confessed to the Catholic priest, who granted him absolution, began to draft farewell letters to family members and close friends, he’s drawn up a will,” said Kopelman. 

Assange had reportedly been hallucinating, including hearing voices and music in his head, as well as having somatic hallucinations whereby a person experiences physical sensations despite no contact taking place. “The voices are things like, ‘You are dust, you are dead, we’re coming to get you,’ Kopelman said. Assange had a genetic predisposition to depression and a history of suicide in his family. Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancee and the mother of his two youngest children, has repeatedly said she fears for his life if he loses his legal fight (Breitbart News). 


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