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Assange confinement at Ecuador embassy 'dangerous' for his health, say doctors

The doctors' verdict has led to speculation that Assange, who was recently given Ecuadorean citizenship, is pushing to get to Ecuador. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 25, 2018, 09.15 AM (IST)

Two doctors have said the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's six-year confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy in London is "dangerous" for his health.  

The doctors came to their conclusion -- and made it public in the Guardian newspaper -- after spending 20 hours over three days with Assange in October. 

"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," the doctors wrote in the Guardian.

The doctors' announcement has led to speculation that Assange is pushing to get to Ecuador. He was recently given Ecuadorean citizenship but should he step out of the country's embassy in London, he may well find the UK, US, and Swedish authorities waiting to arrest him. 

Sweden has dropped rape and assault charges against Assange but he worries the Swedish authorities may pick him up for violating his bail plea and not showing up in court. (Assange had turned up at the Ecuadorean embassy asking for asylum after the charges.)  

Assange is wanted in the US for making classified state documents public. And the UK is an ally. 

The doctor 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.

Ecuador gave Assange citizenship in December, and asked the UK to recognise him as a diplomat. That would have given Assange diplomatic immunity from arrest. 

The UK refused, which leaves Assange stuck at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. 

He has been there since 2012. 

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

Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno said Wednesday that his country and Britain are seeking an arrangement that guarantees Assange's life and safety from US reprisal and also allows for him to be "punished for the mistake he made" in releasing classified US documents.

Moreno did not elaborate. But newspaper reports had only a few days earlier quoted him as called Assange a "nuisance". 

The reports also quoted Moreno as saying Assange was an "inherited problem" (from Moreno's successor) and that Moreno wanted him out of his country's embassy in London. 

(With inputs from AFP)