The wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has opened up about the harsh reality her husband experiences every day, as the threat of a 175-year prison sentence looms, and how their family manages to spend limited but quality time with him.
“He’s gone through two pairs of sneakers, walking the European continent in his cell,” Stella Assange told the National Press Club, claiming when Mr Assange wakes up in his 3x2m prison cell, he turns to the map of Europe on his wall.
She said he has the distances to his favourite cities mapped out, and although he is isolated and confined, he walks the distance to Brussels, Venice and Lisbon around his cell.
“He reads to keep his mind busy, to fight the crushing sense of isolation and of time wasting away.
“He has spent 1502 days in this prison cell.”
Mr Assange continues to face the threat of extradition to the United States over leaked information about the US’ actions in Afghanistan and Iraq published on WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.
He was arrested in 2019 and is now being held in Belmarsh prison in London to await his fate.
Speaking of the difficult process she and her children take to visit Julian in prison, Ms Assange remincised on her husband’s time growing up in Australia, including the times he would go surfing at Byron Bay as a teen, or cycling in Melbourne.
“He tells our children how he would catch yabbies and go fishing for flathead and blackfish with his grandfather, or how he hand raised a fledgling rainbow lorikeet when he was 13,” she said.
“That is how I imagine him when he is free. Not behind the cold, blue glare of a computer screen.
“Although it is my first time coming to Australia, I do not feel like a stranger on these shores,” she said.
“I have mixed emotions about being here, because I had always imagined my first visit to be with my husband and children.”
A lawyer and human rights defender, Ms Assange thanked both Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for their public support, but pleaded for the US government to drop the charges against her husband.
“A 175-year sentence is a living death sentence,” she said.
“A prospect so desperate that the English court found that it would drive him to take his own life rather than live forever in hell. We must do everything we can to ensure that Julian never, ever sets foot in a US prison.
“We are now in the endgame. Julian needs his freedom immediately and Australia plays a crucial role in ensuring his release.
“If Julian is extradited, he’ll be buried in the deepest, darkest quality of the US prison system. Isolated forever.
“Julian is being used as a deterrent to bully journalists into submission. The case against him sends the message that each of you in this room are fair game.”
Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson said the possibility of another Trump administration would be concerning for Mr Assange’s case.
“What will happen, if we see another Trump Administration, is concerning for all of the news media,” Ms Robinson said.
“Given that this is a prosecution that was opened by the Trump administration, we are concerned about press freedom.”
She said Julian’s prosecution would have a continuing impact on Australia’s relationship with the United States.
“It is getting in the way of the US-Australia relationship, which is an important one, but if we can resolve this case, that’s all the better for our relationship.”
Ms Assange said although her husband wakes up on the same flat, concrete floors, this is the closest he has ever been to freedom.
“I place hope in Anthony Albanese’s will to make it happen; I have to,” she said.
“This is the closest we have ever been to securing Julian’s release.
“I want to encourage and do everything in my power to help that happen.”