Julian Assange’s fiancee has told how she believes authorities blocked journalists from the couple’s witnesses on their wedding day at Belmarsh prison because they don’t want him being seen as a “human being”.
The WikiLeaks co-founder was granted permission last year to marry Stella Moris – with whom he has two children – at the prison where he has been held since 2019 after the US took legal action to extradite him to face trial on espionage charges.
In an article for the Guardian ahead of her 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 prison in south London shortly before noon wearing a dress designed by two supporters of Assange – Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler.
But she also writes of how, behind the scenes, the couple have been locked in a dispute with the Ministry of Justice and prison authorities, who she says have denied their proposed witnesses because they are journalists. A proposed photographer has also been denied because he also works for the press, even though they would all attend in a private capacity, she added.
“The prison states that our wedding picture is a security risk because it could end up in social media or the press,” she writes. “How absurd. What kind of security threat could a wedding picture pose?”
Belmarsh regularly permits photography, says Moris, adding that the far-right activist Tommy Robinson and other convicted prisoners were allowed to be interviewed on camera when ITV filmed inside Belmarsh prison.
“But for Julian, who isn’t even serving a sentence, there appear 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 a name, but a person. Their fear reveals 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 will be married by the prison registrar – will be joined by their two children, Assange’s father and brother, and the sister and mother of the bride.
Moris is expected to cut a wedding cake and give a speech after the ceremony has concluded. Instead of sending gifts, supporters have been asked to donate to a crowdfunder campaign supporting his battle against the US government’s bid to extradite him.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “All weddings in prisons must meet the requirements outlined in the Prison Service policy.’
They added that photography for weddings in prisons is facilitated by prison staff, in line with established national policy on photographing prisoners and that policy makes clear the governor can block images being taken if it is believed they will be shared publicly, which can compromise prison security.
As a result, photos are taken by prison staff, they said.
Earlier this month, Assange moved a step closer to a US trial on espionage charges after the UK’s highest court refused to hear his appeal against extradition. He was attempting to appeal against a judgment by the high court in December that ruled he could be extradited after assurances from the US authorities with regard to his prison conditions there.
But the supreme court said it had refused permission to appeal “as the application didn’t raise an arguable point of law”. After the decision, the case is expected to be formally sent to the home secretary, Priti Patel, to approve the extradition.
Assange’s lawyers have had a number of weeks to make submissions to the home secretary before her decision. Other routes to fight his extradition remain, for instance by mounting a challenge on other issues of law raised at first instance that he lost on and have not yet been subject to appeal.