After the first case of coronavirus in a British inmate was confirmed on March 18, the demands to release WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange grew strong. The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a UK prisoner at Strangeways prison in Manchester which has created fear of chaos and widespread outbreak in the prisons which are usually overcrowded.
Julian Assange’s mother, Christine, has initiated a public petition to demand the release of the whistleblower highlighting his underlying medical conditions. In a series of social media posts, Christine said that Assange is already weak from chronic illness and prisons will be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK government has issued guidelines for prisons and other prescribed places of detention in the wake of coronavirus which has claimed 144 lives in Britain. As per the guidelines, any prisoner or detainee with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be placed in protective isolation for seven days.
“People who are severely unwell may be transferred to appropriate healthcare facilities with usual escorts and following advice on safe transfers,” the guidelines read.
During an interview to BBC, the whistleblower’s father John Shipton had said that the Assange's long solitary confinement damaged his health. He said that the ceaseless anxiety that Julian's been under for now 10 years has had a profoundly deleterious effect.
Assange, who is kept in a maximum-security prison in southeast London, is fighting an extradition request from the United States on the charges of violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack into classified government documents. WikiLeaks founder is charged on 18 counts including computer intrusion, espionage for encouraging, receiving and publishing national defence information in cahoots with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
US authorities claim that publishing unredacted classified documents put informants, journalists and human rights activists at risk of torture, abuse or death. The lawyer representing the United States for Assange’s extradition argued that the whistleblower’s action endangered the lives of people from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, who helped the US.