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Julian Assange’s health has deteriorated so rapidly in recent weeks that he was unable to appear by video link for a court hearing about his possible extradition to the United States.
Assange, who is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail, has been moved to the hospital wing of London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, after a “dramatic” loss of weight lead to concerns about his health, according to WikiLeaks.
“Mr. Assange’s health had already significantly deteriorated after seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy, under conditions that were incompatible with basic human rights,” WikiLeaks said in a statement. “The decision of prison authorities to move him to the ward speaks for itself.”
Assange’s lawyer Gareth Peirce told the court Assange was too ill to appear by video link from prison on Thursday but offered no more details about the state of his client’s health.
Assange’s legal team said it is not possible to conduct a normal conversation with their client as a result of his health.
Assange’s mother on Thursday accused the U.K. government of ”unlawfully slowly killing my son.”
“They made him very ill by refusing him ANY access to life-sustaining fresh air, exercise, sun/Vitamin D or proper medical care for 6 YEARS of illegal Embassy detention,” Christine Assange tweeted. “Then against ALL medical advice threw him into a prison cell.”
The hearing at Westminster on Thursday morning was the first since the U.S. Department of Justice announced expanded charges against the former hacker, indicting Assange under the Espionage Act for unlawfully obtaining and disclosing national defense information.
District Judge Emma Arbuthnot adjourned the hearing until June 12, and said that if all parties agreed, the hearing could take place at Belmarsh prison.
Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11 and has been in Belmarsh ever since. The U.S. initially charged Assange with trying to help former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a secure Pentagon computer system, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years.
But last week the DOJ revealed that it was also charging Assange under the Espionage Act, a move some view as a serious escalation of the Trump administration’s war on the press.
Authorities in Sweden are also seeking Assange’s extradition, over rape allegations dating back to 2011. U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid will ultimately have to decide which of the requests to grant.
Cover: File photo dated 11/04/19 of Julian Assange, who will appear in court later as he continues to fight against extradition to the United States over allegations he conspired to break into a classified Pentagon computer. (Victoria Jones/PA Wire, Press Association via AP Images)