John Shipton, the father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, told reporters on Friday that he needs to “face the bitter truth” that his son “may die in jail.” Shipton spoke with reporters in Geneva two days after he visited Assange in Belmarsh prison in London.
“This is not the bitter disappointment of a father, this is simply fact,” Shipton said. “Julian may die in jail over a nine-year persecution for revealing the truth of war crimes. It is beyond obscene.”
Shipton’s comments come a week after UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said, “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.” Melzer has previously warned that Assange had been subject to psychological torture.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh since he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in April. He was charged with skipping bail and served a sentence that ended on September 22nd but is still being held as he awaits a US extradition case.
The US is trying to extradite Assange and charge him on 18 counts under the Espionage Act, which could total 175 years in prison. In October, Assange was denied a delay in the extradition case, which is scheduled to start in February.
The allegation against Assange is that he helped former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning break into a Pentagon computer. Manning was convicted of leaking documents to WikiLeaks, and her sentence was commuted by President Obama after serving seven years. Today, Manning is back in jail for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks in front of a grand jury.
Assange is falsely portrayed as a “whistleblower” by media outlets. In reality, Assange is a journalist and WikiLeaks served as a publisher for Manning’s leaks. It is not uncommon for a journalist to encourage their source to share information.