An Article In “Paris-Match” About Assange, Father And Son

On the 6th January 2020, Jean-Paul Radet posted in French with the following English translation




By Sarah Mabrouk and Flore Olive

During his last visit, which lasted an hour and a half, Julian smiled at him once. If John Shipton points this out, it is because his son is no longer smiling: “As you can see from the photos taken when he was arrested in April, he is no longer the one we all knew, so sweet, funny and smart. “Julian Assange’s face is swollen, a common symptom, according to his father, in people under constant stress. “It can lead to swelling… When he was at the Ecuadorian embassy, he had a dental abscess, a nerve infection that he was not allowed to treat. He also suffered from musculoskeletal problems and could no longer lift his arm… Since he’s been incarcerated, he’s lost 15 kilos”.

Julian Assange has been detained since 11 April near London in Belmarsh, the prison the British call “our Guantanamo” (“our Guantanamo”). Initially placed in the high-security unit among the most dangerous criminals in the country, he had to be transferred on 18 May to the medical service, where his condition has continued to deteriorate. At the October 21 hearing on his extradition request to the United States (postponed until February 2020), the public saw a frail, sickly man on the stand who was having trouble “declaring his identity and date of birth”. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, visited him with two doctors. “Unless the United Kingdom urgently changes course and improves its inhuman situation, Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse could soon cost him his life,” he wrote. He calls for his release. In his wake, sixty doctors have issued an open letter to the Interior Minister asking that Julian Assange be transferred to hospital. According to them, in view of the “available evidence”, there are “real fears that he will die in prison”.

In an interview he gave us in 2010, Julian Assange spoke of his immoderate taste for long walks or horseback rides, fishing, hunting. “I grew up like Tom Sawyer, on farm. I like to live outdoors,” he said. Today, he is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. As he confided to his friend Srecko Horvat, he has found a way of “escaping” in this tight cell: he walks back and forth, imagining that he is walking across Europe, covering 10 to 15 kilometres a day. During the forty-five minutes he spends in the walking yard, the other prisoners are kept away. He meets them only at mass, twice a week. Julian is not a believer but, explains his father, he goes there “just to socialize. His bedside book is Solzhenitsyn’s “Pavilion for Cancer Patients”, but he is not allowed to go to the library and has only recently been given a computer. According to a UN report released in November, the prolonged isolation causes irreparable damage and can be considered torture. Since 2015, the United Nations has prohibited its extension beyond 15 days.

Julian Assange gets two visits a month, lasting two hours. To get to him, you have to pass through three airlocks and submit to the control of a sniffer dog. Mobile phones are forbidden, as well as paper and food. His father brings him some canteen food (£20), but does not address any issues that make him angry: Julian is too depressed. He prefers to keep him informed of what is being done for his cause. He also gives him news about his children, his mother, his sister and his brother. Julian is very worried about dying in the United States,” he says, “about never seeing the people he cares about. It’s heartbreaking. When you imagine that they’re going to take away everything that makes you human, you only have a feeling of desolation.”

John Shipton no longer has any photographs with his son. All his albums, as well as many documents, were stolen from his home in Australia three years ago. Then family’s been threatened, harassed. Because whistleblower Chelsea Manning refused to testify against the man suspected of helping her crack a password, she went back to prison. Did Julian Assange have any idea what his revelations would cost him? In 2010, he told us: “I have become the main target, because such powerful organizations cannot lose face. To do so, they have to shoot the central figure, which is me. During my detention, I asked myself this question: “Is what I am doing worthwhile? Have I made mistakes? But in the end, my conviction was strengthened”.

So far, Julian Assange has not been convicted of any crime, but of a minor offence: violating the conditions of his bail by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. He feared that Sweden, where he was being prosecuted for sexual assault, would extradite him to the United States. He remained in the embassy for seven years, as if he were walled up, until the new Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, ordered his surrender to the British authorities. That was on 11 April and his sentence ended in September. Assange remained in prison, however, under an extradition request from the United States, which accuses him of spying for publishing classified information. These include “Collateral Murder,” a video of a 2007 US army air raid on Baghdad in which several civilians were killed, including two Reuters journalists, and “War Logs,” secret documents about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the information was published by Der Spiegel, the New York Times and the Guardian even before WikiLeaks, “which, when we released it, had a technical problem,” said investigative journalist John Goetz, who spent several days with Assange and other journalists studying the documents. “We discussed what to put forward, we made all the decisions as a team. It’s absurd to pretend that Julian is not a journalist. We were doing the same thing. “In the name of that status, Assange advocates the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A New York judge ruled in his favor and dismissed the Democratic National Committee, which was suing for the release of his e-mails prior to the 2016 presidential election. But many U.S. politicians claimed that Assange was just a “hacker. Thus, for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, WikiLeaks is not a media organization but a “hostile intelligence service. “This Secretary of State, like the American officials who slandered Julian, are the same ones who were responsible for planning the destruction of Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Sudan,” explains John Shipton, who recalls that Assange received 16 major journalism awards. “These people are responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million people and the suffering of millions more, they are swimming up to their necks in a river of blood, but they point their fingers at Julian Assange and claim that he “put lives in danger.” This is beyond grotesque, it’s obscene! “He said that if extradition is decided, it would mean that in the future “the media, including the European media, could be attacked for publishing information that the United States does not want to be disclosed”.

Niels Melzer, the UN rapporteur, who sees espionage charges as the basis for “classic political crime”, explained that British law prohibits extradition for this type of offence. He denounces the conditions under which a trial would take place. “They will present evidence to which the defence will not have access and it will take place behind closed doors, in Alexandria, Virginia, with a jury constituted, in an area where 85% of the people work for the Ministry of Defence, the CIA and the NSA. “Melzer hopes the European Court of Human Rights will intervene. “If it allows extradition in these circumstances,” he said, “it will be a failure of The Rule of Law”.

John Shipton also knows that his son’s salvation depends on Europe. He hopes that not only MEPs, but also the people – what he calls “the grassroots” – will be able to exert pressure. Through him, Julian Assange made us say: “I miss France and Paris very much and France’s unfailing support is much appreciated. “If convicted, the founder of WikiLeaks could face up to 175 years in prison under these inhumane conditions. John Shipton wants to believe that no matter what happens, the movement started by his son will continue: “We may be moving slowly but, like a glacier that joins the sea, inescapably”.


Original posting in Jean-Paul’s Facebook page