Julian Assange failed to appear via video link for an extradition hearing in a London court today after WikiLeaks said that it was “gravely concerned” for Assange’s health.
The 47-year-old is currently serving a 50-week sentence in London’s Belmarsh prison for skipping bail in 2012 and has reportedly been moved to the hospital wing of the facility. Assange’s Swedish defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, has said that Assange was so ill during a meeting last week that, “it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.”
It remains unclear what specific ailment Assange may be suffering from.
“During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight. The decision of the prison authorities to move him into the health ward speaks for itself,” WikiLeaks said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Assange faces extradition to both the U.S. and Sweden, though no one knows which country may get him first. Assange faces one charge of rape in Sweden stemming from a 2010 incident that was only reopened after the WikiLeaks founder was physically dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by British police on April 11.
And the charges in the U.S. have escalated in the past week after the U.S. Justice Department charged Assange with espionage on May 23. Assange obtained over 725,000 classified documents in 2010 related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through U.S. intelligence officer Chelsea Manning and released them via the WikiLeaks website as well as through other mainstream publishers. Manning has already served her time in prison, but has been sent back repeatedly over her refusal to cooperate with a grand jury investigation.
Assange himself released a letter from prison on May 13 which read:
I am defenseless and counting on you and others of good character to save my life. I am unbroken, albeit literally surrounded by murderers, but the days where I could read and speak and organise to defend myself, my ideals and my people, are over until I am free!
The judge in Assange’s case has set a new date of June 12 for the extradition hearing and floated the idea that it could be held in Belmarsh.
“It may be more convenient for everyone if it’s there,” chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said, according to the BBC.