Feb. 18 (UPI) -- More than 100 physicians have signed onto an open letter that says WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange could die behind bars in Britain due to "psychological torture and medical neglect."
Assange is in a London prison awaiting a Feb. 24 hearing that could ultimately send him to the United States to face conspiracy charges.
The letter, which was posted by The Lancet medical journal, says Assange is denied medical care and has suffered mentally for years while in Britain. The Australian spent several years living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London until he was arrested and imprisoned last year.
"We condemn the torture of Assange," the letter states. "We condemn the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate health care. We condemn the climate of fear surrounding the provision of healthcare to him.
"We condemn the violations of his right to doctor-patient confidentiality. Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine."
Echoing the letter, Australian lawmakers Andrew Wilkie and George Christensen called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to block Assange's extradition to the United States, where he faces charges related to breaches involving Defense Department computers.
Wilkie and Christensen argued that allowing extradition would set a precedent that puts journalists worldwide at risk of being harassed and jailed.
"If you are a journalist who does anything that offends any government in the world then you face the very real prospect of being extradited to that country," Wilkie said. "This is a political case and what is at stake is not just the life of Julian Assange. It is about the future of journalism."
In their letter, the physicians said Assange should receive medical treatment to address his mental state.
"Our appeals are simple: We are calling upon governments to end the torture of Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare before it is too late," they wrote.