Reporters Without Borders is calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ahead of the hearing that will determine if he is extradited to the United States.

The organization is also calling for the US to drop the Espionage Act charges against him.

Assange is imprisoned in the United Kingdom and faces eighteen charges under the Espionage Act in the United States for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If extradited and convicted, he could be face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the "crime" of publishing material that the US government did not want the population to know.

"Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by reports that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's health has deteriorated in detention, and calls for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds. RSF condemns the continued targeting of Assange for his journalistic-like activities, which sets a dangerous precedent," the organization said in a statement.

"Assange's extradition hearing is due to begin at the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on 24 February. RSF is concerned by reports that Assange has had insufficient opportunity to prepare for this hearing, and that his lawyers do not have adequate access to him in prison. Both of these measures violate his fundamental rights. RSF representatives plan to monitor the extradition hearing."

Reporters Without Borders has also previously condemned the US government's targeting of Assange for his journalistic-like activities, as classified documents leaked by WikiLeaks led to journalistic revelations that were in the public interest. Assange should not be prosecuted for being an intermediary between a whistleblower and media outlets. In the US, Assange faces a total of 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act.

"We are alarmed by the current state of Julian Assange's health, and call for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds," said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. "Assange is being targeted by the US for his journalistic-like activities, which sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom. The journalistic community in the US and abroad is worried that these proceedings take the criminalization of national security journalism to a new level. This precedent could be used to prosecute journalists and publishers in the future for engaging in activities necessary for public interest investigative reporting. The US should cease its persecution of Assange and drop the charges under the Espionage Act without further delay."

Prior to his arrest, Assange spent nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, unable to receive proper medical treatment, and the lack of sunshine and fresh air taking a toll on his system. Doctors who visited him there wrote an article for the Guardian pleading for him to be allowed to go to the hospital for treatment, headlining their account "We examined Julian Assange, and he badly needs care — but he can't get it."

The doctors wrote, "experience tells us that the prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention inflicts profound psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration. These can include severe anxiety, pathological levels of stress, dissociation, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, among others."

The UN has also issued a scathing report in which Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture said that Assange has been exposed to psychological torture and warned that the award-winning publisher could face the death penalty if he is extradited to the United States.

"Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma," the UN report said.

Additionally, over 60 doctors have signed an open letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel calling for urgent action to protect Assange. They expressed concern that he may die in prison.

"Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Mr. Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose," the letter states.