Bolton said the WikiLeaks co-founder deserves more than 175 years in prison for publishing classified material
The wife of the jailed anti-secrecy activist Julian Assange went head-to-head with ex-ambassador and national security advisor John Bolton in a rare TV appearance, saying the former US official is her husband's "ideological nemesis."
Speaking with host Piers Morgan for his show 'Uncensored' on Wednesday, Bolton said the WikiLeaks head "committed clear criminal activity" by publishing leaked classified documents, arguing the material put government personnel and others in danger.
"He's no more a journalist than the chair I'm sitting on. The information that he divulged did, in fact, put many people in jeopardy" and "undercut the ability of the United States to have confidential diplomatic communications," he said, adding that Assange should face a lengthy prison term should he be extradited to the United States from Britain.
Stella Assange shot back that Bolton is "kind of the ideological nemesis of Julian," recalling the ex-official's role in selling the 2003 US invasion of Iraq to the American public while even suggesting he may be liable for criminal charges before the International Criminal Court.
"[Bolton] has - during his time in the [George W.] Bush administration and later the [Donald] Trump administration - sought to undermine the international legal system and ensure that the US is not under the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction," she said. "And if it was, Mr. Bolton might be prosecuted under the ICC. He was one of the chief cheerleaders of the Iraq war, which Julian then exposed through these leaks, so he has a conflict of interest here."
Asked about her husband's condition in custody at London's Belmarsh prison, she said Assange is "suffering profoundly" and that his health is "declining by the day," noting he is only permitted to see his children one time each week.
"He's a caged animal, and you can just imagine what that does to a person," she went on, adding "there is no reason for him to be in a high-security prison."
The WikiLeaks co-founder was first arrested in 2019 after spending years in asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the British capital. While he faced only minor charges in the UK for skipping bail following past court proceedings, the United States slapped him with a multi-count indictment under the Espionage Act, accusing the publisher of cyber crimes and endangering US national security.
An initial extradition hearing was decided in Assange's favor, but a higher court overturned that ruling in June and sided with Washington, now saying he could be delivered into American custody to face charges. His legal team has since challenged that decision in an August appeal, insisting Assange is "being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions" and that the US government "misrepresented the core facts" in court. A judge has yet to address their arguments, however.