The Ecuadorian embassy in London reportedly locked journalist Cassandra Fairbanks in a room for over an hour during a visit to see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and was eventually given just under ten minutes to speak with him, despite being booked for a two-hour meeting. Fairbanks reportedly overheard a conversation between Assange and an ambassador during which Assange accused the embassy of illegally surveilling him.
On Tuesday, Fairbanks documented her latest visit to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to see Assange in an article.
Fairbanks has visited Assange on a number of occasions, with each visit reportedly becoming more difficult than the last. WikiLeaks responded to Fairbanks’ story stating that Assange has “less rights than a prisoner.”
“It was meant to be a routine visit by a journalist to another journalist. Instead, I found myself locked in a cold, surveilled room for over an hour by Ecuadorian officials, as a furious argument raged between the country’s ambassador and Julian Assange on Monday,” explained Fairbanks. “The room was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Julian Assange currently lives under the ostensible protection of political asylum. Yet the WikiLeaks publisher was barred from entering the room, where he was supposed to join me for a pre-approved meeting, because he refused to submit to a full-body search and continuous surveillance.”
Fairbanks declared that, “It’s the third time I’ve visited in the past year, and each time the atmosphere seems progressively worse,” and added that she couldn’t take her phone “into the meeting without giving the Ecuadorian officials a swathe of data.”
“If you want to take it in with you, they request its brand, model, serial number, IMEI number, and telephone number. I was also advised that Ecuador could not be trusted to hold my phone while I met with Assange, so I left it behind,” Fairbanks reported. “After being searched, the staff directed me into the conference room, where two large visible cameras were pointed at the table.”
Despite Assange being ready for the meeting, he was reportedly unable to enter the same room as Fairbanks, which was locked behind her, as he refused to “submit to a full-body scan with a metal detector.”
“They have not done this with any other visitor in the nearly seven years that he has lived there, including during my previous visits,” Fairbanks claimed, before detailing the angry conversation between Assange and embassy officials outside the room.
During Assange’s conversation with embassy officials, he reportedly complained, “You have been illegally surveilling me,” which prompted an ambassador to reply, “I want you to shut up.”
Fairbanks likened the visit to visiting a prisoner in the United States, and finally, after reportedly spending over an hour locked in the room, she was reportedly able to spend just eight minutes talking to him in the lobby.
Assange’s legal team confirmed every claim made by Fairbanks in her article, and WikiLeaks posted the story on Twitter.
We have approached Julian Assange's legal team to confirm this story. They have confirmed each factual element. The most up to date general context is here: https://t.co/z5JQhPqivVhttps://t.co/6o55ftm6iI
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 26, 2019
In response to Fairbanks’ article, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson declared, “The treatment of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy is unacceptable. It is despicable that a nations government turns agains[t] a man it has granted a diplomatic asylum in such a way that he has less rights than a prisoner.”