Earlier in December, it was revealed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had suffered a mini-stroke in prison. Assange is being held in Belmarsh, a high security facility, while awaiting extradition to the US. There he will face prosecution on 18 charges – all but one under the Espionage Act.
More recently, it’s been reported that Assange has contemplated suicide.
Clinical sources state that a mini-stroke should never be looked at lightly and that medical intervention is needed to reduce the potential of either another mini-stroke or a full blown stroke.
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is the medical term for a mini stroke. Symptoms include “speech and visual disturbance, and numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs”.
Stella Moris, Assange’s partner and mother of his two children, commented how at the October court hearing she observed that “his eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry”.
NHS advice is that if someone is showing signs of a stroke or a TIA, the emergency services should be contacted immediately. This is so the patient can be properly assessed in a hospital setting. A computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will look to see exactly what happened. It’s understood that Assange was examined by a doctor and that he had an MRI. He was also prescribed blood thinners.
The NHS adds that a TIA: “is a warning sign that you may be at risk of having a full stroke in the near future”. About 1 in 3 people who have had a TIA will “eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the transient ischemic attack”.
Doctors who’ve been assessing him for years have been warning of this: that his health is in decline and that he may suffer a rapid downwards spiral at any point. Obviously we’re extremely concerned now – he’s on anti-stroke medication but if he has another one it could be more serious or have a more permanent effect.
Disabilities and death
The consequences of a full-blown stroke vary from individual to individual, and they can include cognitive impairment and aphasia – a language and communications disorder. A stroke can also affect limb movement and vision.
One study found that for stroke survivors there was twice the risk of a major cardiac event compared to those who hadn’t had a stroke a year after the event.
According to the World Stroke Organization, stroke is the “leading cause of death and disability globally”, with 5.5 million people dying from the condition annually. According to a paper in Seminars in Neurology, stroke is the “second leading cause of death and a major cause of disability worldwide”.
An execution in slow motion
Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges has reported that Assange contemplated committing suicide:
He takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. He has been observed pacing his cell until he collapses, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall. He has spent weeks in the medical wing of Belmarsh. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.”
Hedges described what is happening to Assange as an execution. He regards those individuals who are key to his prosecution as executioners and lists them as:
Joe Biden. Boris Johnson. Scott Morrison. Teresa May. Lenin Moreno. Donald Trump. Barack Obama. Mike Pompeo. Hillary Clinton. Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Justice Timothy Victor Holroyde. Crown Prosecutors James Lewis, Clair Dobbin and Joel Smith. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser. Assistant US Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia Gordon Kromberg. William Burns, the director of the CIA. Ken McCallum, the Director General of the UK Security Service or MI5.
Meanwhile, Australia’s deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has said that Assange should either face trial in the UK or be repatriated to Australia. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, he explained:
Other Australian MPs are calling for an end to Assange’s prosecution.
As this 61 tweet thread shows, the demand for Assange to be freed is global and massive.
Grounds for appeal?
Assange’s only ‘crime’ is exposing details of war crimes and illegal acts committed by the US government.
Given the TIA Assange has suffered and the dangers forewarned, there may be grounds to have the US extradition denied. Otherwise, it’s not improbable that he won’t live to see the outcome of the prosecution. Or if he does, he may not be in a fit state, physically or mentally, to fully comprehend that outcome.
It’s time Assange went home.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons