Julian Assange's human rights might be violated if he's extradited to the US, according to a UN expert who says the WikiLeaks founder "shows all the signs that are typical for person who has prolonged exposure to psychological torture." Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture, visited Assange in the UK's Belmarsh prison on May 9. He's now sounding the alarm, saying Assange already "lives in constant panic" and has been subjected to persistent abuse, including "oppressive isolation, harassment, and surveillance," for nearly a decade. "It was difficult to have a very structured conversation with him." Melzer is expected to say as much to the UK government on Friday—one day after lawyers described Assange as too ill to appear by video link at a hearing on his possible extradition, reports the Guardian.
Assange "had a sense of being under threat from everyone" and "was extremely agitated and busy with his own thoughts," said Melzer, who's written to the foreign ministers of the US, UK, and Sweden. "We disagree with a number of his observations," a UK government rep tells the Guardian. But Melzer says he's "never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law." WikiLeaks fears for Assange, too. "His health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight," a Wednesday statement reads, per NPR. Assange's next extradition hearing is June 12. He faces up to 175 years in prison in the US if convicted on all charges, per NBC News. (Read more Julian Assange stories.)