Australian Herald Newspaper


Australian Herald newspaper 

Pamela Anderson says she is willing to sell her house if necessary to help pay for Julian Assange’s legal bills, as his brother has pleaded with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for help.

Assange has dropped at least 15kg during his time in London’s high security Belmarsh prison and has been living on a diet of antidepressants and supplements.

The former Baywatch star, who became friends with Assange while he was in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, said she was gravely concerned for the WikiLeaks founder.

And Assange’s brother, Gabriel Barber-Shipton, has spoken for the first time after visiting him in prison.

Both Ms Anderson and Mr Barber-Shipton have appealed to Mr Morrison asking him to intervene in the case, with Assange facing 175 years in jail in the United States on spying charges.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help Julian, he needs to pay for a serious legal team,” she said.

Ms Anderson has already offered to put up $300,000 of her own money if a donor would match the gift, but has yet to be taken up on her pledge.

She has also sent out letters to donors this month in a major fundraising push.

Ms Anderson said Assange’s health had deteriorated and that he was missing his family.

“The Australian Government should ask for him to be released, there is no fairness, this is about politicians playing with people’s lives because he has embarrassed them.

“He has exposed war crimes, no one has been held to account for those crimes.”

The Wikileaks founder is facing extradition to the United States on 18 charges that carry a maximum 175-year sentence over the dumping of hundreds of thousands of documents online, which exposed government secrets.

The case returns to a British court in February but he also remains under investigation in Sweden over a rape allegation from 2010.

He is currently serving a 50-week sentence for breaching bail by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy for more than seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over the rape allegation.

The WikiLeaks founder is spending 21 hours a day in isolation in the health ward of the prison.

Prisoners in the general population are kept locked in their cells when Assange moves around, he told his brother, after an inmate earlier this year leaked footage of him inside the jail.

His only contact is with other inmates in the health ward, many of whom have serious mental health problems.

Assange, 47, has witnessed the effects of their self harm.

Ms Anderson has also visited Mr Assange in Belmarsh, but the pair struck up a close friendship when he was in the Ecuadorean embassy where she would regularly visit.

The actress, in a phone interview from her home on Vancouver Island, Canada, said she respected Assange.

“People who are not afraid to put their neck on the line, courage is sexy,” she said.

Ms Anderson was introduced to Assange after she mentioned him in a poem she wrote on her social media blog and her friend Vivienne Westwood said they would be a good match.

She said that in the embassy they discussed politics and world events and that Assange listened to her points of view and encouraged her to be a more effective activist.

Ms Anderson said there needed to a campaign to free Assange, similar to that surrounding Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in a South African jail.

“There needs to be a Nelson Mandela kind of campaign, what’s happening is just not enough,” she said.

Mr Barber-Shipton’s letter to Mr Morrison said: “A yellow inmates band wound tightly around his arm exposed how emaciated he had become underneath his baggy prison clothes. In his eyes and voice were the signs that this ‘Hell’ was working its hardest at crushing any hope he had left.”

Mr Barber-Shipton, 36, added: “I sat in the visiting room surrounded by the highest security prisoners in Britain and watched my brother eat a sandwich. I held back tears as I realised I might never see him again.

“I beg you to help us save my brother Julian Assange’s life.”

Judge Deborah Taylor handed down the bail breach sentence in Southwark Crown Court in May, just two weeks’ shy of the maximum, finding that he had advertised his disdain for the UK law.

Assange apologised in court for breaching bail, but argued he feared that the Swedish charges were a trojan horse for him to be extradited to the United States to face charges over one of the biggest leaks of government documents in history.

District Court Judge Michael Snow labelled Assange a “narcissist” when he found him guilty of breaching bail.

Mr Barber-Shipton is Assange’s half brother and the pair grew up in separate cities.

But they connected over email as teenagers and have become close.

His August 6 visit to Belmarsh came after twice being rejected by prison authorities.

Mr Barber-Shipton, a filmmaker, said in an interview that he was shocked at the change in his brother.

“He seemed distressed, the way he was talking it sounded like he had started to get desperate,” he said.

“He’s spending 21 hours a day isolated in his cell, he’s not allowed to communicate with other inmates.”

Mr Barber-Shipton did not reveal Assange’s exact illness, but added the health ward was not an easy ride.

“The people in there self harm, there are schizophrenics, he’s not getting special treatment,” he said.

“He’s given medication, antidepressant medication.”

The window in his medical ward cell was smaller than his previous cell and he only gets a short amount of exercise in a yard with high walls.

Swedish authorities lost a bid in July to detain Assange in his absence but have said they still want to question him.

His alleged victim said in May that the reopening of her case showed that no one was “above the law” in Sweden.

She maintained her claims that Assange had sex without a condom against her wishes in her apartment in 2010.

Photo Liz Rosa