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Julian Assange: 'I miss the outside world'

August 1, 2013, 6:00 am Michael Crooks whomagazine

Exclusive: After 400 days in asylum, Wikileaks chief Julian Assange tells WHO about life inside the embassy

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Photographed for WHO by Carmen Valino


Julian Assange occupies one room, but sleeps in a renovated bathroom in the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

Inviting WHO into his embassy room, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks talks about his daily routine, his fears of being forced outside, his political ambitions and the difficulties of living in asylum.

“I couldn’t sleep because of the Harrods loading bay and the cops always doing shift changes outside,” says Assange, 42. “And the quietest room is the women’s bathroom, the only room that’s easy to sleep in. So I thought I’d try and somehow get hold of it and renovate it. Eventually, somewhat reluctantly, the staff relented. They ripped out the toilet. They’ve been very generous.”

Since June 19 last year, Assange has been living in exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy, avoiding an extradition order to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over two alleged sexual assaults.

But Assange, who vehemently denies the accusations, says, “I didn’t come here because of Sweden,” telling WHO he fears only the threat of eventual extradition to the US, where he faces potential espionage charges over his whistleblowing website’s leaking of classified material.

Related: Back when it began: Wikileaks founder granted bail

And so, relying on family, friends, colleagues and embassy staff for his daily and work needs, and using a sunlamp to keep his vitamin D levels up, Assange has carved out a working life in his embassy niche.

“I miss all the outside world, obviously,” says Assange, who tells WHO he is constantly shifting rooms in the embassy, which occupies a single floor of the building: “We’ve had this room for about a week and we don’t draw attention to which rooms. That’s quite dangerous.”

He is guarded about where his meals come from, too. When an embassy staffer brings him a sushi lunch, Assange asks that the name of the restaurant not be published.

“They might track the place down,” says Assange, who was born in Townsville, Queensland.

“They might put something in there that won’t kill me, but make me very sick so I’ll have to go to hospital.”

He believes his family are potential targets, too. “American right-wingers put out a call that the way to get me was to ‘take out’ my eldest son,” says Assange. “My son has had to move, change all his identities. My mother has had to move, too. There are many death threats made to the lawyers.”

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He finds comfort through his support base. Visitors to his embassy home have included Lady Gaga, actor John Cusack, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, members of Pussy Riot and Yoko Ono, who has visited “several times,” says Assange. “I’m a big admirer.”

Australian friends try to quell the homesickness with gifts—“flannel shirts, Tim Tams, Vegemite, gum leaves”—and at 4 PM each day, a small group including former refugees and soldiers hold a vigil for Assange outside the embassy.

“They try and keep my spirits up,” he says. “And they do.”

Assange is now looking to extend his influence as he makes a bid for a Senate seat in this year's federal election. Wikileaks "has exposed billions of dollars worth of corruptions, so it would be good to take that skill-set to Canberra."

For the full interview and photos inside the embassy, pick up this week's WHO, on sale now!

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23 Comments

  1. John04:23pm Friday 02nd August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Is it just me or is this an almost impossible site to navigate.Perhaps they should call the mag "What? Huh? Where?"

    Reply
  2. HUGE ACKMAN01:05pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Only a RAG like WHO magazine would publish this tripe.

    Reply
  3. arthur01:00pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Care factor! He can stay where he is for the rest of his life and most of us couldn't care less.

    Reply
  4. HUGE ACKMAN12:55pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Yes Ivor this Rudd made problem will haunt us for the rest of our lives. ZI don't mind the Vietnamese coming here they assimilate but these cave men Muslims just do as they please and if we say anything against them the Doo Gooders like this Assange #$%$ call us racist bigots. So he and his ilk must condone the actions of people like the one you refer to.

    Reply
  5. Ivor12:49pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    so, a muslim prayer leader from a Sydney mosque has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman and some girls in North Sydney. That is no surprise to me, this is only the beginning, Rudd and his cronies are letting these people into this country by the thousands.They and their so called religious beliefs think women are the lowest form of life. They believe its ok to marry a 9 month old baby girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old. this is NOT #$%$ ask Nonie Darwish the Egyption lady ,or buy her book.She was raised a muslem.

    Reply
  6. HUGE ACKMAN12:47pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    So all the so called Aussie patriots that think this guy deserves our respect?? What about the more deserving people in our defence forces that he put in danger. These people dont hide when the going gets tough they have to put their lives on the line. Assange is nothing but a wimp looking for some fame.

    Reply
  7. Ivor12:32pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Farmboy, I agree with you, and would love the chance to take him out. I did 25years in the service protecting idiots like these do gooders on here. Half of them would not be alive today if we had said we would not serve. As a result of Assange thousands of Aussie and other nationalities lives were put at risk.Maybe one of these do gooders family members could be among them.

    Reply
  8. Ivor12:16pm Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    These do gooders would soon change their minds if their brother , sister or husband was killed as a result of the imformation this coward Ssange has leaked. The British government should close this tin pot country,s embassy down and go in and dragged him out

    Reply
  9. Fatdog111:34am Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Man up Jack. While you're at it, even the score and get some goodies on the North Koreans, Russians, perhaps a few things re the Iranians. Then I'll listen to everything.

    Reply
  10. HUGE ACKMAN11:32am Thursday 01st August 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Where are all the doo gooder conspiracy theorists today???? It must be dole check day. Its funny how these people like Assange and that other one seek asylum in countries that have far worse human rights records than America. I wonder what Doo Gooder Assange and his mate think of Russias Gay laws.

    Reply

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