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JULIAN ASSANGE has “recurrent depressive disorder” and would be highly likely to commit suicide if his extradition is approved, a psychiatrist told a hearing today on the Wikileaks founder’s potential extradition to the United States.
Michael Kopelman, professor of neuropsychiatry at Kings College London, visited Mr Assange 17 times in 2019 and three times this year.
He told the hearing at the Old Bailey in London that Mr Assange had suffered severe depression, auditory hallucinations and anxiety, as well as exhibiting traits of Asperger’s syndrome.
“Sometimes he thinks of suicide more than 100 times each day and calls the Samaritans constantly,” Prof Kopelman said.
He also told the court that Mr Assange suffered from psychotic episodes, during which he heard voices telling him that "he was dust” or “he was worthless.”
Prof Kopelman said that Mr Assange has a genetic predisposition to depression and has suffered a number of episodes, including during his almost seven-year political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The court heard that the psychiatrist had diagnosed Mr Assange as being “severely depressed” last December and“moderately depressed” in February and March this year, with his mental condition becoming more severe during the Covid-19 lockdown.
James Lewis QC, counsel for the US government, alleged that Mr Assange became addicted to opiates while in the Ecuadorian embassy and that apparent mental health issues might be symptoms of “withdrawal” due to his detention in Belmarsh prison.
Mr Assange complained of going “cold turkey” on May 15 after coming off the painkiller co-codamol, which he was taking for toothache while in the embassy, the court heard.
Mr Lewis also pointed to records describing Mr Assange’s visits to the prison library, watching racing on television and playing pool with other inmates.
He suggested that the behaviour did not fit with Prof Kopelman’s diagnosis or a comment Mr Assange made to him that “he thought about suicidal ideas 100 times a day.”
Prof Kopelman said: “This was, of course, before he was moved on July 18 to the single cell in healthcare, where his health deteriorated.
“He has a genetic predisposition to depression, exacerbated by an anxiety disorder, and the determination of someone with Asperger’s.
“That constitutes a very high risk of suicide and the imminence of extradition would be a clear trigger.”
If extradited to the US, Mr Assange would face 17 charges of espionage and one of computer hacking, carrying a maximum sentence of 175 years.
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