For more than a year, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been residing in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, having sought asylum from a European arrest warrant.
The Australian-born Assange has drawn the attention and ire of governments around the world for publishing, on WikiLeaks, a wide range of classified information. WikiLeaks gained notoriety in the United States in 2010 when Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, supplied secret military documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was convicted in July of violating the Espionage Act and is currently in prison at Fort Leavenworth.
Assange, for his part, remains the subject of a United States grand jury investigation. He’s been living in the embassy since seeking political asylum June 2012. The British government is seeking to extradite him to Sweden for questioning in a sexual assault case. Police have been stationed outside the embassy since then, and have orders to arrest Assange if he leaves. The statute of limitations on that case runs out in 2020.
"My focus of attention is on the U.S. case, the continuing grand jury investigation,” Assange told The Daily Telegraph. “That is what I have received full political asylum in relation to. I assume the Swedish case will disappear of its own accord in due course.”
In a 90-minute Skype interview with The Telegraph, the 42-year-old Assange discussed matters ranging from his criminal cases to his celebrity visitors to his living conditions. Assange’s quarters consist of a converted office including a bed, a telephone, a lamp, an Internet-connected computer, a shower, a treadmill, and a small kitchenette.
“Of course it’s difficult to wake up for 500 days and see the same walls,” he said, “but on the other hand, I am doing good work, and I have no time for anything else. So it’s a bit counterproductive to trap me here, because what else can I do but work?”
Assange’s story is about to break into pop culture with the debut of “The Fifth Estate,” a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange himself. However, pop culture has already begun seeking out Assange; celebrity visitors have included John Cusack, Yoko Ono, Maggie Gyllenhall, Graham Nash and M.I.A. His movie entertainment includes “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Assange has sharply criticized “The Fifth Estate,” even contacting Cumberbatch directly to caution against participating in the film.