LONDON, 20 June (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was not subjected to torture whilst detailed in a UK prison but was still the target of aggressive surveillance, the whistleblowing organisation’s official spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has told RIA Novosti.
Ecuadorian news agency Andes had earlier reported Assange saying, “I was detained without official charges. I spent five days without charges in a horrible prison in the UK. My health was very poor then, and they applied electricity to my shins."
But Hrafnsson has told RIA Novosti this was a “mistranslation”.
“His comments have led to some mistranslations. [Assange] was referring to electronic surveillance but somehow that was translated into the use of electronic cables and torture,” Hrafnsson said.
“It’s an obvious mistranslation,” Hrafnsson added.
“He was actually referring to the fact that he was forced to wear an electronic tag around his ankle for almost two years,” Hrafnsson told RIA Novosti.
Hrafnsson stressed that “aggressive” surveillance techniques were still be pursued by Western intelligence agencies against Assange and other members of the Wikileaks team.
“We know through Snowden’s revelations about the information and plan that there was to carry out and survey every individual who had linkage, or dealings or even through searching the website for Wikileaks,” Hrafnsson told RIA Novosti.
“Through what we know from the revelations we have seen over the last year or so, it is quite established and obvious, and it is to be expected, that the premises of Julian Assange are being monitored aggressively with electronic surveillance,” Hranfnsson added.
“That is something that he and the rest of the Wikileaks team adapts to,” Hranfnsson said.
Hrafnsson told RIA Novosti that fresh efforts were being made to end Assange’s effective detention in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he was granted political asylum in 2012.
The UK Government has refused to give the Wikileaks founder safe passage to Ecuador and have maintained a constant police presence around the embassy for almost two years and at a cost of several millions of pounds.
“Mr Assange’s lawyers in Sweden have filed an official request on Tuesday to have his arrest warrant rescinded and the details of that issue will be released through his lawyers in Sweden next week,” Hrafnsson told RIA Novosti.
“The cost of the police operation around the Ecuadorian Embassy is around £6 million ($10 million) and the fact of the matter is that is probably only a proportion of the cost because FoI requests on the information of the nature and the cost of the total surveillance of Julian Assange and the Embassy has been barred for ‘reasons of national security’,” Hrafnsson added.
“What we know is the Met has had to pay £6million to keep a presence at the site and that is money probably better spent on some social services,” Hrafnsson said.
On the question of Assange’s health, Hrafnsson said, “Any individual can imagine what the possible effect on being incarcerated in a confined space of this nature without the ability to get sunlight or go outside for years, would do.”
“Saying that Julian Assange is a person of extraordinary resilience,” Hrafnsson added. “He has adapted to the situation and has used any ability he has to make that situation bearable.”
“He continues his work within our group,” Hrafnsson said.