I have no doubt he will die if extradited to US: Julian Assange's brother
Published: Dec 14, 2021 06:31 PM

 In this file photo taken on February 5, 2016 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange comes out on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy to address the media in central London on February 5, 2016. Photo: CFP

In this file photo taken on February 5, 2016 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange comes out on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy to address the media in central London on February 5, 2016. Photo: CFP

Editor's Note: 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is facing new uncertainties after the UK's High Court ruled last Friday that he could be extradited to the US. "I have no doubt he will die [if extradited to the US]," said Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton (Shipton) in an exclusive interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen. Assange's fiancée revealed to the media that he suffered a stroke in prison in October due to stress over his future. What does the family plan to do next? How did the US administration disappoint the family? Shipton shared his thoughts with the Global Times. 

GT: When was the last time you saw him? How was his condition?

The last time I saw Julian was in Belmarsh maximum-security prison just outside of London. And that was in October last year when I was last in the UK. His condition at that time I think he had almost been in that prison for two years. So it was taking its toll on him. Over the years when I go and visit him, whether it's in the Ecuadorian embassy or the prison, you can see what effect it's having on him.

This sort of pressure that he is under is really taking its toll on his health. He just had a mini stroke during the appeal hearing in October. His health is progressively getting worse and we sort of live in fear that he won't survive this ordeal.

GT: How did you feel when you heard the latest ruling that he could be extradited to the US? Is the fear that Julian may choose to die by suicide haunting you more? 

Yes, it certainly does. I hope he can survive. He's very strong and he's very determined. I think the extradition approval that was given by the high court - we're gonna fight it. Julian is going to appeal. He has until December 24 to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court in the UK but I think we can't rely on the UK courts anymore. I think the chances of winning are very slim. One of the justices who approved the extradition on Friday (December 10) was the chief justice of England and Wales. So he is the most senior judge in the whole of the UK and that's his decision to grant the extradition.

So any appeal to the Supreme Court will have to take that into account that they will have to rule against the most senior judge in the UK. So it's really up to the US and the Biden administration to let this attack on press freedoms and attack on journalism go.

GT: Besides the appeal, what else do you plan to do?

We are campaigning now around the world for Julian's release. I'm here in the US in New York City today and I'll be in Washington, DC tomorrow, advocating for Julian's release. I'm doing media here. We have many avenues of the campaign that is going on. I was just at a protest action outside the UK consulate here in New York, where there were many people, celebrities, lots of media. So there's a renewed attention on Julian's persecution now, and we're taking advantage of that and building momentum for a campaign to free him.

GT: What could happen to Julian if he is extradited to the US? 

I have no doubt that he will die. If he is extradited in the US prison system, they cannot keep their prisoners safe. You just have to look at what happened to other high-profile prisoners like Jeffrey Epstein. He cannot be kept safe in the US prison [system]. And I don't think we can assume that they can look after him or keep him safe from the forces that are trying to keep him in prison now.

We saw in September revelations coming from investigative reporters in Washington that there were plots from within the CIA to kidnap or kill Julian when he was in the Ecuadorian embassy. I think those plots haven't really gone away. There're still those factions within the American intelligence that want to see Julian dead. That's what I feel will happen if he gets extradited to the US.

GT: You tried to lobby the Biden administration when it was just about to take office. Did it disappoint you more when you dealt with it?

There was a time when people post-Trump thought that maybe Biden would let this go, maybe the Biden administration would revert to the position of the Obama administration where they found that they couldn't prosecute Julian without also prosecuting The New York Times.

So there was a bit of an expectation that the Biden administration might revert back to that position. And we did have some early contact with the administration. But after the inauguration on January 20, we had no more contact with them. And shortly after that, they announced that they would be pursuing this prosecution. 

With the Biden administration, we've seen with the "democracy summit" last week, they are talking the talk when it comes to press freedom. They're using press freedom to lecture other countries and talk to other countries about press freedom in their country when they are holding a publisher and journalist in prison. Julian is in prison only at the request of the US DOJ (Department of Justice) and they have also requested that he not be given bail.

The Biden administration has an opportunity now to show the world how serious they actually are about press freedom. And it's not just hot air that they're talking about press freedoms and lecturing other nations on press freedoms, and that they're actually serious about press freedoms, and they should just let Julian go. And that is a way that they can show the world that they are actually serious about press freedom. They're not just lecturing other countries about it. 

I see the Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson today (Monday) come out with a tweet saying that if the Biden administration wants to lecture people on press freedoms and they should let Julian Assange go. I think those sorts of things are going to increase over time. Nations and states around the world are going to say to the USA you can't say anything to us because look what you're doing to Julian Assange.


GT: What do you expect from the Australian government? If it steps in, will it make a difference?

I think so. Australia - they just have this AUKUS agreement in place. So Australia is an ally of the US, so Australia can turn around and say, hey, we're one of your allies. Just let this go, let our man come home to be with his family. Just yesterday (Sunday) the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce called for the extradition of Julian Assange not to go ahead. 

That's an encouraging sign that maybe the Australian government might do something here, or at least the deputy prime minister is on the side of Julian and sees that this is a problem, a problem that US law can be applied to anywhere. It can be applied to any of the allied countries - extraterritorial reach of US law. I think that's a big problem and Barnaby Joyce sees that problem. 

We even saw Meng Wanzhou in Canada. She is the CFO of Huawei. The US used the extradition treaties with Canada to hold her captive. So we can see it happening time and time again. The US is using these unfair extradition treaties to pursue people whom they don't agree with politically.

I think it's an opportunity for Australia to tell the US - its biggest ally - that they want Julian to be free. Australia should use its alliance in it for its favor rather than just take orders from the US. Australia is an important strategic ally of the US and we should be respected as such, and we should be listened to when it comes to our citizens.

Gabriel Shipton, brother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, talks to Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen in an exclusive interview. Photo: Global Times

Gabriel Shipton, brother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, talks to Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen in an exclusive interview. Photo: Global Times

GT: Some believe Julian's case is the result of the connivance of Western governments that cannot tolerate the truth, which shows the decline of the West. What do you think? 

What we're seeing with Julian's persecution is that if you expose the crimes of a government, or if you expose torture, or if you expose corruption of the government, you are going to be punished. What the US DOJ is attempting to do is to make telling the truth illegal.

I think when you look at a government that does that, you start to think, well, is this a democracy? Am I living in a democracy if I don't know what the government is doing in my name? What does my vote mean? Is it just a performance that we do every four years? Voting if we don't really know what our votes are voting for or where our tax money is going? I think this Julian persecution strikes at the very heart of what we believe our democracies are. So we need to stop it and sort of rebuild and stop this descent into barbarity that is happening in the West.

GT: Besides some news reports from US media about the process of Julian's case, few made the call to free him. What do you think of the US mainstream media's reaction to this case?

They could always do more. What is their stake here is their rights as well. So they should be coming to defend to the defense of Julian. They're getting better and some are reporting on it more. But they can always do more and they need to realize that really, this is their business that's under attack here. If journalism is a crime, then how can I do business? What we've been saying since the last 10 years is mainstream media has been losing audience and so they need to take a long hard look at themselves and say, what is their function in a democratic society?

GT: Have you imagined what you will do if Julian is set free? What is his wish? 

I would imagine Julian coming up for Christmas this year would be good. I think if he gets out, he's going to need some time to recuperate, to sort of rehabilitate himself after this ordeal.

I hope he has some time to spend quiet time with his family, with his children and his fiancée Stella, so that they can just take some time to become a family again and do normal things, take the kids down to the park, or go and have a coffee or something like that. I think it's a pretty nice dream at the moment.

GT: How are his two children right now?

They're very cute. Gabriel and Max - they're OK, but they're still quite young and don't have a great grasp of what's going on. One of them has only ever known Julian in prison. He's never known his dad to live outside or anything like that.

So when they grow up more and begin to understand what's going on, I think they'll be very proud of what their father has done. And they'll get a better understanding. But at the moment, this is what they know. This is their life.