Julian Assange welcomes Who magazine into his embassy home
WikiLeaks founder poses for Hello!-style photoshoot billed as ‘my life inside the embassy’
Julian Assange has posed for a Hello!-style photoshoot billed as “my life in the embassy” for an Australian glossy magazine.
The cover of this week’s Who magazine sees the WikiLeaks founder – who has been living in London’s Ecuadorean embassy since June 2012 – perched between “Kate & George’s first days at home” and “stars hit the beach”, dressed in a dark suit and red tie and casually holding a mug advertising the Australian rock band AC/DC.
Inside, the magazine shows Assange sitting at a leather sofa in front of a large wooden bookcase, dressed less formally in a beige T-shirt and grey jumper, staring intensely into the lens.
To his left is pinned the picture of Edward Snowden mocked up to look like Shephard Fairey’s Barack Obama “Hope” poster the WikiLeaks founder tweeted last month.
In front of him, presumably carefully placed, are three books, including Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control by Medea Benjamin and Barbara Ehrenreich, which the Guardian called “a justifiably angry sourcebook and a call to action for the growing worldwide citizen opposition to the drones”.
A version of the Who piece on the Yahoo! website begins – bizarrely under the circumstances – by hewing cheerfully to the standard formula adopted by celebrity magazines lucky enough to get a tour of stars’ homes:
Inviting Who into the Knightsbridge haven, a short stroll from Harrods department store …
The tactlessness of noting that anywhere is a “short stroll” in a piece about a man who is in effect under self-imposed house arrest seems lost on the author.
In the article, Assange – who successfully applied for asylum at the embassy in June 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning over sexual assault allegations and has been there ever since – reveals more about his living arrangements:
I couldn’t sleep because of the Harrods loading bay and the cops always doing shift changes outside.
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.
He also reiterates his case that it is the fear of possible extradition to the US on charges relating to WikiLeaks’s publication of classified documents, rather than the possibility of conviction in Sweden, that has led to his refusal to leave the embassy: “I didn’t come here because of Sweden,” he says.
He seems to fear his food might be poisoned, asking Who not to publish the name of a sushi restaurant from which his lunch has been ordered.
They might track the place down … They might put something in there that won’t kill me, but make me very sick so I’ll have to go to hospital.
Perhaps for the same reason, he says he is constantly moving from room to room in the embassy. “We’ve had this room for about a week and we don’t draw attention to which rooms. That’s quite dangerous.”
Assange has been back in the spotlight again recently as his organisation helped US whistleblower Edward Snowden as he successfully arranged temporary asylum in Russia, and the case of Private Bradley Manning – the soldier who leaked thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in its most high-profile publication – came to a close with his conviction for espionage.
But the Who interview might in fact be part of a strategy by Assange to win more sympathy at home in Australia, where he is running for the Senate in the general election expected to be called soon – presumably in the hope that the UK or Sweden would be reluctant to extradite a sitting foreign politician.