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Assange was jailed to prevent him fighting against extradition to the US, WikiLeaks editor says

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has been jailed to prevent him from preparing an effective defence against plans to extradite him to the United States, according to the organisation’s editor-in-chief.

Kristinn Hrafnsson made the accusation in an interview with Sputnik News, warning that Mr Assange’s  possible 175-year sentence was “a matter of life and death.”

He is currently in Belmarsh prison serving a 50-week sentence for breaching bail conditions after seeking sanctuary in the Ecuadorean embassy.

The United Nations warned that Britain had violated Mr Assange’s human rights by imposing a “disproportionate sentence” for what it called a “minor” crime. 

The US is seeking his extradition to face charges under the Espionage Act next February, in what has been branded one of the most serious attacks on journalism and free speech in history. 

Mr Assange could spend the rest of his life behind bars for publishing a series of leaks from former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. 

Mr Hrafnsson said Mr Assange was in a better condition than a few weeks ago, when the UN said he was showing signs of psychological torture.

“But he is still frail and he is still suffering. And in fact, of course, he is placed in this position of not being able to sufficiently prepare his defence,” Mr Hrafnsson said, adding that “175 years in prison in the US is a matter of life and death.

“The precedent that it sets is not about Julian and WikiLeaks, it’s about the most serious attack on press freedom in decades.”

Nonetheless, Mr Hrafnsson vowed to continue holding the powerful to account.

“As journalists, we have our mandate from the general public at large and we have a duty to the general public to hold other powers, both corporate and state, accountable for their actions,” he insisted.

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