US political commentator Cassandra Fairbanks came to visit Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since 2012 and shortly afterwards commented on his living conditions as “akin to a political dissident in Stasi-era Germany”.
She claimed that she had had her phone checked and all of their conversations recorded during her visit, notably not the first one to the embassy, with the “surreal conditions” being “more invasive than visiting someone in a federal penitentiary”. According to Fairbanks, fears that their talk would be recorded “under pressure from the US” made them try exchanging written notes.
“Unable to speak privately, even with a noise machine attempting to muffle the microphones from picking up conversations, we resorted to passing notes”.
She took note of an increased number of cameras around, as compared to her previous visit. The pair, she said, tried to change location to one which they thought housed less surveillance equipment, but moments later were asked to return to the initial room, which they did passing through the hall, every single angle of which was recorded “by a forest of menacingly Orwellian black cameras.”
Fairbanks pointed out that Assange was surprisingly “in good spirits” despite being monitored by “some shadowy state actor” along with a string of “efforts from the US and Ecuador to make his life a living hell.” “It’s like a scene from the Stasi spy drama The Lives of Others”, Fairbanks noted, adding that in the age of “fake news”, the work of WikiLeaks should be “celebrated, not persecuted”.
“If we value the principle of the freedom of speech — we must do something to stop this madness”, she called her readers.
Assange’s supporters, including acting diva and now avid social activist Pamela Anderson, have publicly stood up in the WikiLeaks founder’s defence lately, asking for his safe return to Australia, after reports emerged of the deteriorating conditions he has to live in. Even a legal defence fund was launched for Assange amid fears that his life is “under increasingly serious threat” and media reports of Assange’s extremely dire living conditions.
Ecuador has denied reports that the WikiLeaks publisher had been made to sleep on the floor and even deprived of heating in the premises he lives in. In a statement, the president's communication secretary dismissed the claims as "totally false" and said that the embassy's heating system "is working normally". Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks founder was restricted both with regard to personal visits and internet access in 2018 over alleged violations of his terms of asylum. Following repeated demands from his supporters and lawyers, his internet access was partially restored.
Last month, Ecuador said conditions had been met for the embassy's guest to leave, as Britain had issued guarantees that it wouldn't extradite him to any country where his life would be in danger. In a parallel development, WikiLeaks reported on insights in November that there is some type of a sealed indictment against Assange back in the US, which suggested that Washington might ultimately seek his extradition if he leaves the embassy.
Julian Assange, now 47 years old, requested asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London soil in 2012 after it emerged that Britain could extradite him to Sweden, where he was wanted over allegations of sexual offences, which he stated were part of a ruse to deliver him to the US.
Sweden dropped its charges in May 2017, but Assange feared at the time that he would instead be extradited to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of highly-classified leaked US military and diplomatic cables, including those related to the Iraq War.