Thursday Jan 25 2018

Julian Assange's stay in embassy dangerous to health: doctors

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files

LONDON: The ongoing six-year confinement of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London’s Ecuadorian embassy is dangerous to his physical and mental health, according to new clinical assessments conducted.

A pair of doctors reached the verdict after spending 20 hours over three days in October performing "a comprehensive physical and psychological evaluation" of Assange, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

"While the results of the evaluation are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, it is our professional opinion that his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him, and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare," they wrote in the newspaper.

The duo — Sondra Crosby, a doctor and associate professor at Boston University’s school of medicine and public health, and Brock Chisholm, a London-based clinical psychologist — renewed calls for Assange to be given safe passage to a hospital.

The clinicians called for the British Medical Association and others to lobby the UK government to provide healthcare, but noted most doctors are unwilling to enter the embassy to treat him.

"Our assessment reveals that he has had no access to sunlight, appropriate ventilation or outside space for over five and-a-half years," the doctors added.

"This has taken a considerable physical as well as psychological toll."

Wikileaks in 2016 released medical records claiming its founder’s mental health was at risk then if he remained in the embassy, predicting it was "highly likely" his mental health would deteriorate.

Assange moved into the embassy in the British capital in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of rape and sexual assault.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation in May last year, but Assange still stays indoors, fearful he will be arrested for breaching his bail if he leaves.

He recently became a citizen of Ecuador, but the British government said the move did not change his legal status.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year said Assange’s arrest was a US "priority".