Ahead of Assange’s extradition hearing, Wikileaks’ Twitter account gets locked for several hours

Assange has been detained at the high-security Belmarsh prison in accordance with the ruling by a local judge in London, while he awaits the conclusion of his extradition trial

February 19, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Wikileaks Assange

Wikileaks’s official Twitter account was locked for several hours for unknown reasons, barely a week ahead of founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing. The account that is followed by over 5.5 million people was not accessible to its managers for over seven hours. The issue was eventually resolved after a tweet by Wikileaks editor-in-chief  Kristen Hrafnsson on January 17 became viral and attracted significant media coverage. Hrafnsson had written earlier that “(a)ll attempts to get (the handle) reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful.”

In the tweet, Hrafnsson also indicated that the timing of the account being locked was suspect as it happened “shortly before Assange extradition [trial]” which is scheduled to begin on February 24.  Assange is to stand trial on an extradition request from federal prosecutors in the United States. In the meanwhile, he remains detained at a high-security prison in Belmarsh as the presiding judge has deemed him to be a “flight risk”.

The episode has generated significant controversy and is being viewed as a possible sabotage attempt. Wikileaks has previously been censored on social media platforms. According to ZeroHedge, Wikileaks’ twitter handle was suspended in July 2016, shortly after it republished the emails as part of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Leaks.

No details have been given so far as to what caused the latest lockdown.

Doctors appeal for Assange again

Meanwhile, 117 medical doctors from around the world, many of whom are signatories to earlier letters written to the UK and Australian governments calling for immediate medical attention for Assange, have reiterated the demand in a new open letter.

The medical professionals, under the banner “Doctors for Assange”, had earlier written to the British home secretary in November, and published an open letter on February 17, calling for an end to what they deem to be “torture and medical neglect”. They have again cited the report by Craig Murray and John Pilger, who have written about Assange’s visible deterioration of health during one of his previous appearances in court. They have also cited the detailed report by UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer. Melzer had Assange checked by medical professionals and arrived at the conclusion that he exhibits symptoms of psychological torture and requires urgent professional care outside Belmarsh prison.

Assange’s lawyers have constantly complained to the court of the conditions in which he is being held by prison authorities. According to them, he is being kept in virtual isolation with little to no human contact, and they have been denied time to talk with him about his case.