Julian Assange Urges King Charles III to Visit Belmarsh Prison, Calls it "Kingdom Within a Kingdom"
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Delhi: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has penned a letter to King Charles III, inviting him to visit the UK prison where Assange has been held captive for over four years. The proposal from Assange comes right ahead of the king’s coronation.
Assange’s letter recounts the difficulties of his life in Belmarsh prison through statements laced with irony.
Assange writes that he thought it was only fitting to extend an invitation to the king on the occasion of his coronation. He invites him to visit the "kingdom within a kingdom" that is Belmarsh prison. He also sarcastically points out the UK government's commitment to expanding prison places and the "culinary delights" of eating on a budget of two pounds per day.
Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, is currently fighting extradition from Britain to the United States. The US government has charged Assange with multiple criminal offenses related to the release of confidential military records and diplomatic cables in 2010, which Washington claims put lives in danger.
In the letter, Assange refers to himself as a political prisoner, held at the pleasure of the king on behalf of “a foreign sovereign”. “I am honoured to reside within the walls of this world class institution. Truly, your kingdom knows no bounds,” he adds.
“One can truly know the measure of a society by how it treats its prisoners, and your kingdom has surely excelled in that regard,” the journalist writes in his letter, which is less a plea for freedom and more a testimony to the difficulties of carceral life and the abysmal conditions of prisons.
He goes on, “Your Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh is located at the prestigious address of One Western Way, London, just a short foxhunt from the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. How delightful it must be to have such an esteemed establishment bear your name.”
“It is here that 687 of your loyal subjects are held, supporting the United Kingdom’s record as the nation with the largest prison population in Western Europe. As your noble government has recently declared, your kingdom is currently undergoing ‘the biggest expansion of prison places in over a century’, with its ambitious projections showing an increase of the prison population from 82,000 to 106,000 within the next four years. Quite the legacy, indeed,” he says.
Assange paints a picture of the prison as he welcomes the King into his world: “Venture further into the depths of Belmarsh and you will find the most isolated place within its walls: Healthcare, or “Hellcare” as its inhabitants lovingly call it. Here, you will marvel at sensible rules designed for everyone’s safety, such as the prohibition of chess, whilst permitting the far less dangerous game of checkers.”
He continues, “Deep within Hellcare lies the most gloriously uplifting place in all of Belmarsh, nay, the whole of the United Kingdom: the sublimely named Belmarsh End of Life Suite. Listen closely, and you may hear the prisoners’ cries of “Brother, I’m going to die in here”, a testament to the quality of both life and death within your prison.”
The irony he follows up with is hard hitting -- “But fear not, for there is beauty to be found within these walls. Feast your eyes upon the picturesque crows nesting in the razor wire and the hundreds of hungry rats that call Belmarsh home.”
He implores King Charles to visit Belmarsh, “for it is an honour befitting a king.” Assange writes to the King, “As you embark upon your reign, may you always remember the words of the King James Bible: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’. And may mercy be the guiding light of your kingdom, both within and without the walls of Belmarsh.”
Assange's proposal is a long shot, to say the least. Additionally, it is unlikely that the King would intervene or even visit the prison.
The imprisoned journalist’s legal battles date back to 2010, when WikiLeaks published many classified US government documents. He was subsequently charged with multiple counts of espionage and faces extradition to the US.
Meanwhile, Assange's health has been a concern, as he has been confined to a small room in the embassy for over seven years and then the prison. In an interview with The Guardian, he described his living conditions in the embassy as "a bit like living in a space station".
Assange spent seven years living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was granted refuge. However, in 2019, British police arrested him and he has since been held in the London prison while awaiting the outcome of his extradition case.
Several individuals, including Australian PM Anthony Albanese, have advocated for Assange's release. If extradited to the United States, Assange could face a maximum security prison sentence of around 175 years.
According to reports, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday expressed his “frustration” over the continued detention of Assange and his concern for the WikiLeaks founder's mental health. Albanese stated that he had made his position clear to the US administration and that Assange’s ongoing incarceration would serve no purpose.
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