22 May 2022

Julian Assange's father: 'His jail is worse than hell'

From Sunday Morning, 11:24 am on 22 May 2022

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still battling extradition to the United states. He’s in a London prison awaiting the decision of the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and that decision is due soon.

If Assange loses this time, he could still appeal for permission to appeal to the UK high court or the European Court of Human Rights.

The Australian is wanted over the publication of thousands of classified documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, including footage showing how a United States helicopter fatally shot a group of civilians and two journalists in Iraq.

The espionage charges he’s facing in the US carry a maximum penalty of 175 years.

John Shipton, the father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, pictured in 2020.

John Shipton, the father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, pictured in 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP

Now a new documentary, Ithakadocuments 76-year-old John Shipton's campaign to free his son, Julian Assange.

It follows those who have been heading the campaign to have Assange released – namely Shipton and Assange's wife/lawyer, Stella Morris, who bore him two children during the time he spent under the protection of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Shipton tells Jim Mora he hopes that in bringing the documentary to Australia and New Zealand, it will “ensure that the son of this land is brought home, to stop this awfully cruel sadistic treatment of a publisher”.

“He’s a publisher, he published stuff. That’s all. And other publishers like New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, El País in Spain, Le Monde in France published as well, but their editors aren’t arraigned or indicted, and pounded, and mobbed, and smeared for years.”

To help fund campaigns and legal bills, Assange collaborated with crypto artist Pak on a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) which raked in more than $US52 million.

“I think that’s about $80 million NZ and that will enable payment of lawyers and so on. I think the lawyer bills are expected to be $40 million USD. [The NFT] had 10,000 people in it, that made a significant donation of Ethereum [cryptocurrency],” Shipton says.

“I think it’s the second largest donation ever made.”

But through 12 years of his legal battle, Assange’s mental and physical health have deteriorated.

Last year, he suffered a “mini-stroke” at Britain's Belmarsh Prison, with his wife blaming it on extreme stress caused by the extradition case.

“If a person can speak about something which is classified, they put them in SAMs [Special Administrative Measure cell],” Shipton says.

“In that cell, they’re kept in solitary, so what happens is that they get so anxious to speak to another human being, they yell … So this hellish cacophony echoes up and down the hallway, I mean who is going to put up with that?

“The warden of that jail, that particular jail that has the 20 Special Administrative cells in it, says that his jail is worse than hell.”


Shipton says they are still seeking due process in Assange’s case.

“The judge refused to allow Julian to sit in the body of the court, had to sit in this glass box, the glass box is constructed to have terrorists in there, Julian’s a 54-year-old publisher. He uses a pencil.”

While Shipton believes it will only get worse from here, he says will never give up on his efforts to free his son.

Ithaka is screening as part of Doc Edge Festival 2022 at Auckland’s The Civic on Sunday 26 June 7.30pm, at The Embassy in Wellington on Thursday 30 June 6pm, and virtually from 1 July to 10 July.