Police have forked out £6m to guard the Ecuadorian embassy because WikiLeaks fugitive Julian Assange is hiding out there, reports the Daily Mail. The Metropolitan Police have been standing guard outside the embassy 24/7 since June 2012, at a cost of £11,000 a day.
Mr Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy because British authorities had wanted to extradite him to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault, allegations he strenuously denies. The 42 year old journalist also fears being sent to America to face charges relating to the leaking of vast numbers of confidential state department documents.
At first the British Government feared Mr Assange would be moved from the Embassy to Equador itself, but this looks increasingly unlikely as the stand-off approaches its second full year. The Metropolitan Police have made it clear that Assange will be arrested if he attempts to leave the embassy.
This round the clock Police operation has cost £5.9million so far, and that includes £1million in overtime costs.
Baroness (Jenny) Jones, Deputy Chairman of the Police Committee at London City Hall, condemned the bill as “ludicrous.”
She told the Mail: ‘It is absolute madness. I have been asking the Met questions about this because clearly at the moment the cost is falling on the London taxpayers as a net police cost.
“I have been asking if the Government is going to pay. The Met is apparently trying to claim back some of the money, but of course it is still the taxpayer who is paying for it.
“It is complete madness when we are struggling to keep police officers on the beat. I do understand the legal ramifications of the case, but the fact is this is a complete nonsense.
“He could stay there for years. It is a terrible thought, I guess. What he did with WikiLeaks was extremely valuable but at the same time evading justice just is not right and either somebody else has to pay – that is, the Swedish authorities – or we just have to back off and stop guarding the embassy. It is ludicrous.”
The case is similar to that of His Eminence József Mindszenty, who was granted political asylum in the United States after the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Communists. He had to live in the US Embassy in Budapest for 15 years before being finally allowed to leave the country in 1971.
Unlike the sprawling US Embassy in Budapest, which has almost everyone you would need to live a comparatively normal life, Equator’s base in London is a few rooms of a block near the department store, Harrods. Inside Assange is believed to have a small room, with a single bed and a treadmill.