A United Nations official has urged the British government not to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, warning that the WikiLeaks founder would not receive a fair trial after years of being subjected to "psychological torture".
UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, said that the WikiLeaks founder had been deliberately exposed to severe forms of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment or punishment.
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Assange lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost seven years before being dragged out last month and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for a bail violation.
He now faces an extradition request from the US to face claims of violating the US espionage Act by publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
Assange was too ill to appear at a court hearing in London on Thursday.
Prof Melzer, who visited Assange in Belmarsh Prison in south London earlier this month, issued a strongly worded statement expressing "alarm" that the US Department of Justice had laid 17 new charges which carry up to 175 years in prison.
"This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were added in the future," he said.
Prof Melzer said he was "gravely concerned" about the limited frequency of visits by Assange's lawyers and his lack of access to documents, making it impossible for him to prepare his defence in the complex legal proceedings "piling up" against him.
Swedish authorities recently announced that they were reopening an investigation into a rape allegation, which Assange has denied.
Prof Melzer said Assange had been transferred to the healthcare unit at Belmarsh because his psychological state had deteriorated.
Several countries have made a "sustained and concerted effort" to get Assange extradited to the US for prosecution since WikiLeaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture in 2010, Prof Melzer said.
"Since then, there has been a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador."
According to the UN official, this included an "endless stream" of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, and by senior political figures, and magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange.
"Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.
Prof Melzer appealed to the British Government not to extradite Mr Assange to America or to any other state failing to provide reliable guarantees against his onward transfer to the US.
Swedish prosecutors announced that a detention hearing will be held at Uppsala District Court on Monday.