“The first thing to say is [that] Ecuador has been making some outrageous allegations,” Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told Sky News on Sunday following the whistleblower’s arrest earlier this week. Quito made these claims to divert public attention from its own misdeeds and to “justify the unlawful and extraordinary act of letting police come inside an embassy,” she added.
Earlier, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo complained about the embassy staff having to tolerate gross misconduct for far too long. The 47-year-old was specifically accused of “putting feces on the walls,” among other things. He was also alleged to have left dirty underwear in the lavatory, failed to clean dishes, and left a cooker on.
Apart from that, the embassy staff complained earlier that the WikiLeaks founder also listened to loud music and skateboarded inside the embassy hall at night – claims that make the whistleblower sound like a rowdy teenager.
Robinson dismissed all those allegations as “not true” and hit back by saying that it was the Ecuadorian authorities that eventually turned the whistleblower’s life in the embassy into a sort of a solitary confinement as he was holed up for seven years.
“I’ve been visiting him for the last seven years. This man has been inside a room with no outside access. Inside the embassy, it has become more difficult,” the lawyer said, adding that Ecuador’s attitude to Assange drastically changed for the worse after its current president, Lenin Moreno, came to power.
So he has had a very difficult time – it has not been easy.
On Sunday, the Spanish daily El Pais published a video from the embassy’s security camera, which indeed shows Assange skateboarding through the diplomatic mission’s room while wearing shorts (it’s unclear whether the footage was taken at night). None of the dirtier claims have yet been supported by evidence, though.
The Moreno government did make Assange’s life more difficult in his last two years at the embassy as he was deprived of internet access, and no personal visits were allowed for a time. Earlier this week, the Ecuadorian president also revoked his asylum, opening the way for his detention.
The claims about Assange’s alleged misbehavior were not the only bizarre statements made by the Ecuadorian authorities about the whistleblower’s life at the embassy.
Earlier, Ecuador’s UK Ambassador Jaime Marchan said that the whole diplomatic mission was wary of Assange’s famous embassy cat, which he claimed could “spy” on the staff.
The ambassador’s theory sparked a wave of mockery on the social media, while WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson denounced it as s “demented” story aimed at diverting attention from Assange’s “disgraceful expulsion” from asylum.
Fleeing from ‘US injustice’
Assange would never stay in the embassy without a good reason, Robinson explained, adding that the whistleblower lived there for so long “because of a real and legitimate fear of US extradition which, as we saw on Thursday, proved to be justifiable fears.”
Washington charged Assange of “engaging in a conspiracy” with US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into an American government computer network storing classified material back in March 2010. It is hardly coincidental that the indictment was made public on the same day the WikiLeaks founder was arrested.
At the same time, Robinson denied that the whistleblower ever sought to hide from Swedish prosecution after he was accused of rape and other sexual offences against two women dating back to 2010. Sweden considered dropping the charges as long ago as 2013 but was urged by the UK not to do so. Following Assange’s arrest on Tuesday, the lawyer of the two Swedish plaintiffs called on the nation’s chief prosecutor to reopen the case – something that Assange’s lawyer said they “will deal with” if it happens.
This was and is not about avoiding facing Swedish justice. It is about avoiding US injustice.
Just hours after his arrest by British police on Thursday morning, Assange was found guilty of failing to surrender to bail in 2012 and put into Belmarsh Prison, a notorious jail in southeast London dubbed ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay.’ He is also facing extradition to the US – something he has always feared – correctly, as it turned out.