Julian Assange’s fiancé has recounted how she believes authorities blocked journalists from the couple’s witnesses on their wedding day in Belmarsh Prison because they do not want him to be seen as a “human being”.
Last year, WikiLeaks co-founder was allowed to marry Stella Moris – with whom he has two children – in the prison where he has been sitting since 2019, after the US took legal action to extradite him for being convicted of espionage.
In an article for the Guardian ahead of his wedding on Wednesday, Moris describes the wedding venue as “the most oppressive high-security prison in the country.” Moris, a lawyer, is expected to arrive at the South London jail shortly before noon wearing a dress designed by two Assange supporters – Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler.
But she also writes about how the couple behind the scenes have been locked in a dispute with the Ministry of Justice and the prison authorities, who she says have rejected their intended witnesses because they are journalists. A proposed photographer has also been rejected because he also works for the press, even though they would all participate in a private property, she added.
“The prison states that our wedding image is a security risk because it can end up in social media or the press,” she writes. “How absurd. What kind of security threat could a wedding image pose?”
Belmarsh regularly allows photography, Moris says, adding that far-right activist Tommy Robinson and other convicted prisoners were allowed to be interviewed on camera as ITV filmed inside Belmarsh Prison.
“But for Julian, who is not even serving a sentence, there seems to be a different set of rules. What are they so afraid of? I am convinced that they fear that people will see Julian as a human being. Not one “name but a person. Their fears reveal that they want Julian to remain invisible to the public at all costs, even on his wedding day, and especially on his wedding day. For him to disappear from public consciousness.”
The couple – who are married by the prison registrar – are joined by their two children, Assange’s father and brother, and the bride’s sister and mother.
Moris is expected to cut a wedding cake and give a speech after the ceremony is over. Instead of sending gifts, supporters have been asked to donate to a crowdfunding campaign that supports his fight against the U.S. government’s attempts to extradite him.
A spokesman for the Danish Prison and Probation Service said: “All marriages in prisons must meet the requirements of the Danish Prison and Probation Service’s policy.”
They added that photography for weddings in prisons is facilitated by prison staff in accordance with established national policy for photographing prisoners, and that the policy makes it clear that the governor can block photos taken if it is believed that they will be shared publicly, which can compromise prison security.
As a result, photos were taken by prison staff, they said.
Earlier this month, Assange moved a step closer to a US trial on espionage charges after Britain’s Supreme Court refused to process his appeal against extradition. He tried to appeal a judgment of the High Court in December that ruled that he could be extradited after assurances from the US authorities regarding his prison conditions there.
But the Supreme Court said it had refused permission to appeal “as the application did not raise a legally debatable issue”. Following the decision, the case is expected to be formally sent to the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, to approve the extradition.
Assange’s lawyers have had a number of weeks to make submissions to the interior minister before her decision. There are other ways to combat his extradition, e.g. by challenging other issues of law raised at first instance which he lost on and has not yet been the subject of appeal.