Moris, a Swedish national living in London, said in the video and a statement submitted to a British court that she is worried about Assange as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in prison populations. Moris said Assange’s health is already precarious because of a lung condition as well as mental health challenges after extended isolation.
“I make this statement now only because our lives are on the brink and I fear that Julian could die,” Moris said in the statement filed with the court in support of an application Assange’s attorneys submitted to have him released on bail. She said “he may himself die as a result of increased risk of exposure to the Covid-19 virus.”
Westminster Magistrates Court judge Vanessa Baraitser refused his bail request on March 25. Since then, one prisoner in the high-security Belmarsh prison, where Assange is being held, has died after contracting the virus, according to a tweet by BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw.
It is unclear if Assange’s legal team will make a second bail request.
Assange is challenging an extradition request by the United States, which wants the 48-year-old Australian to stand trial in federal court in Northern Virginia on charges that he violated the Espionage Act. Prosecutors allege that the anti-secrecy activist helped obtain and disseminate hundreds of thousands of pages of secret military documents and diplomatic cables regarding U.S. action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to prosecutors, Assange helped Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, hack into government computers.
It is unclear if his attorneys will seek to augment their argument against Assange’s extradition by referencing his ties to Moris and their children. The right to respect for one’s “private and family life,” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, has been cited in past extradition cases in Britain.
Moris said she went “to great lengths to shelter our children from the climate that surrounds him,” and that “Julian has respected my wish for privacy and has sought to protect me for many years from the harm of his immediate environment and the glare of the media.”
Jennifer Robinson, a longtime counsel for Assange, said Moris “has not taken this decision lightly, having fiercely protected her family’s privacy for many years."
“She wanted to speak in support of Julian’s bail application given the grave risk to his health in prison during the covid pandemic and the judge refused her anonymity,” Robinson said.
The Ecuadoran foreign ministry and U.S. officials declined to comment.
Morris says in the video released Saturday that she fell in love with Assange after meeting him in 2011 and joining his international legal team, which led her to spend “almost every single day” in the embassy.
“This is a person that I knew well by then,” Morris said. “A person I know better than most in this world.”
In the video, she flips through photos of the children, a cat beside her, remarking at one point that the older boy resembles Assange: “Very Julian.”
The children, both British citizens, have visited their father in Belmarsh, according to the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail also reports that Assange watched his children’s births over video and that he was able to secretly meet Gabriel in the embassy.
Moris says on video that she suspected surveillance targeting her children when a guard told her someone was trying to steal one son’s DNA. The Daily Mail said Moris and Assange think American intelligence was behind the attempt. Assange has argued that he is being unfairly prosecuted as a whistleblower.
“I realized that I couldn’t really protect my family,” Morris says. “I understood that the powers that were against Julian were ruthless and had … no bounds to it.”
Assange was quickly arrested on a hacking charge after Ecuador ended his asylum last year, accusing its years-long guest of rule-breaking and “discourteous and aggressive behavior."
U.S. prosecutors confirmed in 2018 that they had secretly charged him with conspiring with Manning to illegally obtain secret documents, which WikiLeaks published online.
Ana Vanessa Herrero, William Booth, James McAuley and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.