Reporters Without Borders representatives were turned away for “spurious reasons,” its director has claimed
Two senior members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have been barred from seeing WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange at a London prison despite having prior approval to visit him, the organization has claimed.
In a statement on Tuesday, RSF said Secretary General Christophe Deloire and Director of Operations Rebecca Vincent had not been allowed to enter Belmarsh Prison, “despite having been vetted in advance and receiving confirmation.”
RSF, which is an international non-profit organization that seeks to safeguard the right to freedom of information, said that the activists had wanted to assess the conditions that Assange is being kept in and to speak with him about his case. It added, however, that Assange’s wife, Stella, had been allowed to see her husband.
RSF said prison officials claimed to have “received intelligence” that the activists were in fact journalists, meaning they were not allowed to enter. Deloire criticized the “arbitrary” decision, arguing it was made “for a spurious reason” at the last minute.
The organization claimed that the pair had been attempting to visit the WikiLeaks co-founder not as journalists, but rather as NGO members.
Vincent stated that “at every level, British authorities have defaulted to secrecy and exclusion rather than allowing normal engagement around this case… What do they have to hide? Regardless, we continue our campaign to #FreeAssange unabated.”
Assange, an Australian-born publisher, has been a target for the US since 2010, when WikiLeaks released a trove of classified documents revealing alleged war crimes committed by US forces during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is accused of conspiring to hack Pentagon computers and has been charged under America’s 1917 Espionage Act over the publication of classified materials.
From 2012 to 2019, Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. After his asylum status was revoked by Ecuador’s government, Assange was transferred to the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. A legal battle is ongoing over his potential extradition from Britain to the US, where he is facing a prison sentence of up to 175 years.