The detention and potential extradition to the US of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is an attack on democratic principles and the freedom of the press, says the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Swiss Nils Melzer.
In an interview with news outlet Republikexternal link, Melzer delivered a damning indictment of the legal and political systems in the United States, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.
“It is obvious that what we are dealing with here is political persecution,” he said. “The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law.”
Assange is currently in a high-security prison in Britain fighting extradition to the US. In 2010 the whistleblowing website Wikileaks published material from former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning of alleged US war crimes in Iraq.
Melzer got involved in the case last year but was dissatisfied with answers to his enquiries to the Swedish and British authorities. He has visited Assange in jail and says that the 48-year-old is being denied legal rights and is being subject to psychological torture that could cost him his life.
Melzer, who has previously criticised the Swiss government’s stance towards Assange, tells Republik that he has documentary evidence that Swedish police made up evidence to accuse Assange with rape, an investigation that was subsequently dropped.
“Four democratic countries joined forces – the US, Ecuador, Sweden and the UK – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could later be burnt at the stake without any outcry. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press,” Melzer said.
Assange is wanted for trial in the US to face several charges, including breaches of the Espionage Act. He continues to divide public opinion, with some accusing him of being a dangerous narcissist who endangers lives and others believing him to be a defender of democratic freedoms.