Julian Assange is living the life of a political prisoner
HE MAY not be in a prison cell, but Julian Assange’s bolt hole for the past two months has been little less cramped.
Ecuadorian diplomatic staff have had to convert part of their London embassy from an office to a residence to house the WikiLeaks founder.
Meals are having to be prepared for him in its kitchenette or delivered from nearby restaurants.
The absence of suitable accommodation also meant Mr Assange initially had to sleep on an air-bed on the floor in a room at the back of the embassy, while a shower had to be installed for him.
A bed has subsequently been provided in Mr Assange’s room, but his effective captivity will have been keenly felt by the lack of a garden in the embassy, which has only some ten to 12 rooms.
This will have been compounded by temperatures in London this weekend reaching 31C – the hottest of the year – increasing Mr Assange’s discomfort at being forced to remain indoors.
Before the heatwave, his lack of natural light was being compensated for with a sun-lamp. He was also given a running machine for exercise.
It is said Mr Assange has devoted most of his incarceration to monitoring – via an internet connection provided by the embassy – FBI investigations into the leaking of information to the WikiLeaks website.
But his captivity was also reported to be taking its toll. One source at WikiLeaks said: “He’s bored, but wouldn’t you be if you were stuck inside a small space for two months?”
Mr Assange’s mother, Christine, has also expressed fears for his health.
She said last month: “I would be concerned for anybody who is having to stay indoors and not get exercise and have sunlight.”
Some of his visitors have attempted to lift his spirits by putting on music and encouraging him to dance with them. But he is said still to wear the electronic tag which was imposed as part of his bail conditions.
Visitors have included high-profile supporters, such as journalist John Pilger and Vaughan Smith, in whose Norfolk mansion Mr Assange stayed while he appealed to the Supreme Court against his extradition.
Sarah Harrison, Mr Assange’s assistant, is said to stay late into the evening, while other regular visitors include confidant and WikiLeaks spokesman Joseph Farrell.
The embassy occupies half of the ground floor of a seven-storey, red-brick building opposite the rear of the Harrods department store in Knightbridge, west London. The block also houses members of the Saudi royal family and Mustafa Ben-Halim, a former Libyan prime minister.
The embassy’s lobby includes a photograph of Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorial president, while a yellow, blue and red patriotic sash is hung across the centre of its main room.
The embassy is also dotted with a series of paintings of vibrant tropical birds.
Mr Assange’s speech yesterday prompted bookies to shorten the odds that he would still be there on 1 September – in two weeks’ time – from 1/3 to 1/5.
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