The Nation journalist, Charles Glass, interviews Assange in Belmarsh maximum security prison in London

The manifesto publishes the document today, translated by Patrick Boylan; here are some excerpts

“At Belmarsh, Her Majesty’s Prison – It is 2.30pm on Wednesday 13 December when Julian Assange enters the visitor area. In the group of 23 inmates, Julian stands out for his height – 188 centimeters – and for his long white hair and trimmed beard. He narrows his eyes, looking for a familiar face in the crowd of wives, sisters, children and fathers of the other inmates. I’m waiting for him, according to what I was told, in the D-3 area of ​​the room, which looks like a basketball court It is one of about 40 areas, all consisting of a small table surrounded by three upholstered chairs, two blue and one red, screwed to the floor.” This is the incipit of the article last December, written for The Nation by journalist Charles Glass, on the occasion of his visit to Julian Assange in Belmarsh maximum security prison. An extraordinary document, translated into Italian by Patrick Boylan for the manifesto, which is publishing it today. We report some excerpts below.

“We see each other, we get closer and we hug. It’s the first time in six years that I’ve seen him in front of me. I say: ‘You’re pale’. With that mischievous smile of his that I’ve seen in many meetings in the past, Julian jokingly tells me : ‘Yeah. They call it convict’s pallor.’ He has hardly known the outdoors since he took refuge in the cramped Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 – except for that minute as the police dragged him into a prison van Before 2019, the French windows of the embassy at least allowed a glimpse of the sky. However, in Belmarsh maximum security prison, in south-east London, his home since 11 April 2019, Julian never sees the sun. The guards keep him confined to a cell for 23 hours a day. His only ‘hour of recreation’ takes place within four walls, under surveillance. We therefore understand the reason for his dying paleness.”

“Julian and I sit, face to face, me in the red chair, him in one of the blue ones. Above us, glass globes hide the cameras that record interactions between inmates and their guests. (continued)

The prison gave Julian a radio which is now broken

“Not knowing how to start the conversation, I ask him if he wants anything from the bar. He asks for two hot chocolates, a cheese and pickle sandwich, and a Snickers bar. I invite him to come with me and make his choices. ‘Not allowed,’ he says. I go alone to queue at the stand run by Bexley and Dartford Samaritans volunteers. When my turn comes, I place my order. The sandwiches are finished, says the little man. But the rest of the food is rubbish: crisps, chocolate bars, colas, sweet muffins. I return to Julian, who has changed seats. The red chair is for prisoners, the blue one for visitors and a guard had ordered him to take the right seat. I put the tray on the table with hot chocolates, Snickers, some muffins and my instant coffee.”

“I ask why only unhealthy food was available. He smiles and tells me that I should see what they eat in there with a budget of €2.30 per inmate per day. Per day? Yes: a porridge [porridge] for breakfast, light soup for lunch and little else for dinner. (…) Then I apologize for not having been able to give him some books, explaining that I had been told that he had exceeded the limit. He smiles again. In the first few months he was allowed a dozen books. Later, up to 15. He insisted on more. ‘How many do you have now?’. ‘Two hundred and thirty-two,’ he says mischievously. It’s my turn to smile.”

“I ask him if he still has the little radio that he struggled to get the first year. He has it, but it no longer works due to a faulty plug. The regulations allow every prisoner to have a little radio purchased in the prison shops. But then the authorities claimed that there were no more radios available for him. When I found out, I sent him a small radio. It was returned to me. Then I sent him a book on how to build a radio. That too he was returned. Months have passed. I contacted one of the most famous former British Hezbollah hostages to ask him for advice. In fact, listening to the BBC World Service on the radio that his captors had given him had kept him from going mad. And then, at my urging, Julian wrote to the prison governor, saying it would be bad publicity if word got out that Belmarsh was denying Assange a privilege that Hezbollah granted its hostages. The prison gave Julian his own radio . (continued)

Assange, WikiLeaks is no longer able to report war crimes

But how does he keep himself completely updated, he who is so passionate about world news? “Prison allows him to read press reviews; moreover, his friends write to him. With the invasion of Ukraine and Gaza, I say, there should be many opportunities for the world’s whistleblowers to send documents to WikiLeaks – no? Julian expresses his regret that WikiLeaks is no longer able to expose war crimes and corruption as in the past. His incarceration, the persecution of the US government and the restrictions placed on WikiLeaks funding do not have done nothing but drive away potential whistleblowers. It expresses the fear that other media outlets will not be able to fill the void.”

(…) “The regime is punitive, even if the approximately 700 inhabitants of Belmarsh are there only in precautionary custody, that is, awaiting trial or appeal. But these are category A prisoners, those who ‘represent the threat more serious to the public, the police or national security’: persons accused of terrorism, murder or sexual assault”.

“We talk about Christmas, which is a day like any other in Belmarsh: no turkey, no carols, no presents. The prison is closed to visitors on Christmas Day and the day after; in fact, the prison has informed his wife, Stella Moris, that she and their two young children, Gabriel and Max, cannot see Julian on Christmas Eve. Instead, he can attend the Catholic Mass celebrated by the Polish chaplain, who has become a friend. The visiting hour is coming to an end. There we get up and hug each other. I look at him, unable to say goodbye. We hug again, without words.”