Julian Assange is due to marry his fiancée and mother of his children Stella Moris today, while he fights extradition to the US from HMP Belmarsh – but what does a prison wedding look like?
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is marrying his fiancée Stella Moris today – from the confines of Belmarsh Prison.
Assange and lawyer Morris met while he was hiding out at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, evading arrest by British authorities and extradition to the US where he’s wanted for alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information after WikiLeaks released thousands of documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He has always denied the allegations.
In April 2020, Moris revealed Assange had proposed after the pair had developed a romantic relationship in the Embassy.
At the time, Moris said: “He asked me to marry him in 2017 and I chose a diamond ring, which I showed him online.
For more of the news you care about straight to your inbox, sign up for one of our daily newsletters here
“Being in love, getting engaged, having children while he was in the embassy, it was an act of rebellion. Over the past five years I have discovered love makes the most intolerable circumstances bearable.”
But she added that, while the country was thrown into lockdown, she was terrified she may never see her wedding day and feared for Assange’s health.
She said his poor physical health meant his life was “on the brink.”
In January, The Mirror exclusively revealed Moris hoped to wed Assange before the end of this year.
She said: “We don’t really have much time to ourselves as a couple I mean, that’s an understatement! I can see him on a weekly basis now.
“We do have constant contact, but we wanted to just… yeah, get married. It has been something we have been wanting to do and the ideal circumstances, we don’t know if and when they will happen, so we want to be married.”
According to the Marriage Act 1983, prisoners have a legal right to get married in the place where they’re being detained.
The couple’s wedding will go ahead after a judge ruled the pair would be allowed to marry, but with several restrictions.
AFP via Getty Images)
For example the pair, who have two sons, Max and Gabriel, can only have four wedding guests and two witnesses, who have to leave immediately after the ceremony has ended.
The stipulations for the wedding come from government guidance which takes into account security considerations and ceremonies for people of different faiths.
The guidance applies to prisoners who have been sentenced, are due to be sentenced but are unlikely to be released, or have compassionate reasons for wanting to get married soon (ie. in cases of terminal illness).
Once the ceremony has been approved, the guidance states “only a reasonable number of guests” will be permitted to attend the ceremony – and they’ll all be searched on arrival.
The prisoner must also give prison wardens full details of the guests invited to the wedding well in advance of the ceremony.
If the wedding has been permitted to take place outside of prison grounds, the prisoner can be granted temporary release – but they have to pay for their own transport to get to the wedding venue.
In some cases, the prisoner can get married outside of prison grounds but is NOT granted temporary release – in which case they have to marry their beau with a security escort by their side.
When the guests arrive at the wedding, they’re under strict instructions not to include the faces of any prison staff in any photos/videos they take of the ceremony.
Writing in The Guardian, Stella Morris said she couldn’t wait to marry the love of her life – but wished it was taking place with her fiancé as a free man.
She wrote: “Today will be a private moment in which we will affirm our love for each other.”
The bride will be wearing a dress designed by Dame Vivienne Westwood, who has long campaigned for Assange’s release.
Stella wrote: “This is not a prison wedding, it is a declaration of love and resilience in spite of the prison walls, in spite of the political persecution, in spite of the arbitrary detention, in spite of the harm and harassment inflicted on Julian and our family.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.