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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange very unwell ahead of US appeals hearing, says fiancee

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If convicted in the US, Julian Assange could face a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. (file)

London:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s fiancee said on Monday he looked thin and unwell as the US appealed against Britain’s decision to block his extradition.

Stella Morris, who has two Assange children, told a news conference that she last saw Assange on Saturday at London’s high-security Belmarsh prison.

She said that Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long time and “I was quite surprised by how thin he was”.

“He seemed very unwell.”

After spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, the 50-year-old Australian was arrested in 2019 on bail in the UK, which was later dropped Was.

The US government is seeking his extradition to face trial for publishing military secrets.

A UK judge in January blocked a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was at risk of suicide.

The US is trying to overturn a British judge, arguing that other expert evidence indicated that Assange was not at risk of taking his own life.

Instead, it claimed that the judge was “misled” by relying on evidence presented by Assange’s psychiatry expert Michael Kopelman.

“We hope this will be the end of it,” Morris said of the two-day hearing that begins on Wednesday.

“The point was that Julian would not survive extradition, that was the judge’s conclusion.”

Morris said that being in prison for Assange was “an ongoing struggle” and “there is only so much a person can take”.

Rebecca Vincent, director of international programs at Reporters Without Borders, said US President Joe Biden missed an opportunity to “distance from his predecessors” on the matter, urging the US to drop it.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristin Hrfanson said “it is unimaginable that the High Court would come to a conclusion other than upholding the original UK decision”.

Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges related to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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