(DailyVantage.com) – The freedom of press advocacy group ‘Reporters Without Borders’ was banned at the last minute from visiting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at London’s Belmarsh Prison on April 4 for reasons that remain unclear.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Reporters Without Borders director Rebecca Vincent revealed that while the organization was scheduled to be the first NGO to meet with Assange in Belmarsh on Tuesday, the prison’s governor banned their meeting without notice upon their arrival.
Vincent said that despite the fact that the group had followed all the prison procedures and arrived early with the necessary documents, they were informed upon arrival that they had been removed from the approval list because the prison had “received intelligence” that Reporters Without Borders were journalists. In her statement, Vincent clarified that while — as an organization which defends the rights of journalists — Reporters Without Borders employed some staffers with a background in journalism, the organization was an official NGO and the meeting with Assange had nothing to do with conducting journalism.
She accused the UK government of sabotaging the organization’s defense of Assange’s rights “at every stage” and called on Belmarsh Prison to reverse its decision to prohibit the meeting.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh since his April 2019 removal by police from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — where he had sought refuge for nearly seven years — and is currently awaiting extradition to the United States.
Former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition on charges of violating the US Espionage Act in June 2022. Assange is currently appealing the decision.
Since his imprisonment, several human rights organizations and activists have expressed concern over the conditions Assange has experienced in Belmarsh. In February 2022, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, claimed the conditions at the prison were “destroying” Assange’s health.
Melzer protested that the UK government had failed to ensure Assange’s “humane treatment” at Belmarsh and called for the WikiLeaks founder’s release.
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