If you’ve ever wondered what Julian Assange has been getting up to during those long days stuck inside the Ecuadorean Embassy, then you may want to check out the details of recently leaked documents that appear to shed light on some of his activities.
The WikiLeaks founder, in case you weren’t aware, has been holed up inside the embassy building in London for the last three years. He decided to seek refuge there when the U.K. Supreme Court dismissed his efforts to block extradition to Sweden where the authorities want to question him about allegations of sexual assault involving several women.
Secret papers shown to BuzzFeed this week reveal that staff at the embassy have been writing official reports on a daily basis describing Assange’s activities. The documents reportedly describe an at times rather tense atmosphere inside the building, with revelations of “clashes with embassy staff, concerns over Assange’s psychological health, and potential escape plans.”
The documents, in which Assange is sometimes referred to as “Mr. Guest,” belong to the Ecuadorean government and were first reported on by journalist Fernando Villavicencio.
Security guard scuffle
Notable incidents include a run-in with a security guard when Assange, who at the time had been inside the building just three months, gained entry into the embassy’s secure control room where he “started tampering with the security equipment.” A “scuffle” apparently broke out, leading to equipment in the room being damaged.
During an internal inquiry into the incident, staff noted that Assange was under strain in part because there were “more than 20 British agents posted outside the building.”
Indeed, British cops are positioned outside the embassy in the unlikely event that the 44-year-old Australian tries to make a run for it. The 24/7 surveillance is believed to have so far cost taxpayers around £12 million ($18.8 million).
A great escape?
Talking of making a run for it, the secret papers also detail officials’ ideas for getting Assange out of the embassy without getting arrested the moment he leaves. Plans range from the sensible to the absurd – at the less ridiculous end of the scale was the idea of getting their guest diplomatic immunity by making him Ecuador’s representative to the UN. More bizarrely, officials suggested he could leave disguised in a costume of some sort, “or try to escape across the rooftops towards a nearby helipad, or get lost among the people in Harrods.” Quite how he would get from the embassy to Harrods isn’t clear.
The leaked papers also talk of Assange apparently suffering frequent night terrors, with the document’s author putting them down to “the stress that Mr. Assange could be feeling as a result of his isolation.”
The BuzzFeed article certainly paints an interesting picture of the kind of pressure Assange, as well as embassy staff, are under as he continues living inside the building.
In mid-August, Sweden’s statute-of-limitations laws meant that action regarding three of the assault allegations had to be dropped, though a fourth allegation, this one concerning rape, can be pursued by the Swedish authorities till 2020. This means the WikiLeaks man may remain inside the embassy for another five years.
Assange, it should be noted, has always protested his innocence. He says he took refuge in the embassy in the belief that extradition to Sweden would ultimately lead to extradition to the U.S. where he could face charges related to the publication of classified government documents over recent years.
He says that if that happens, the chances of getting a fair hearing are slim, though others have said his assertions are mistaken.