WikiLeaks reported on Wednesday that it has uncovered a major spying operation against Julian Assange inside the embassy of Ecuador in London, where the founder of the whistle-blowing website has been living since 2012.
The material obtained from these spying activities includes video footage, photographs and even a note about Assange’s defense strategy written by one of his lawyers, said WikiLeaks. This trove turned up in Spain, where a group threatened to make the information public unless they were paid €3 million, Reuters reported.
The case has been sent to the Spanish police, and a judicial investigation into the alleged extortion has been launched, said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Hrafnsson said that much of this material came from cameras inside the embassy. Hrafnsson described it as “a total invasion of Mr Assange’s privacy.”
“Ever since [Ecuadorean president] Lenín Moreno came to power, Julian Assange has been living in a Truman Show situation,” said Hrafnsson, alluding to the 1998 satirical sci-fi movie starring Jim Carrey.
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who was also present at the news conference, said they will renew calls for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to adopt precautionary measures to protect her client. These measures were first requested in December 2018 by the law firm headed by former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.
Last week, WikiLeaks announced that Assange would be evicted from the embassy within “hours or days,” an assertion that was later refuted by the government of Ecuador. In Hrafnsson’s opinion, what prevented the eviction is the fact that WikiLeaks made the public announcement.
In 2012 Julian Assange was facing a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden in connection with an investigation into alleged sex crimes that was later dropped. He took refuge inside the Ecuadorean embassy in June of that year, and two months later, then-president Rafael Correa granted him asylum. Assange was later given citizenship as well.
But when a new president, Lenín Moreno, took power in 2017, relations between Ecuador and Assange became strained to the point that his internet connection was cut off at one point and outside visitors were barred except for his lawyers.
The activist fears arrest in the United Kingdom and extradition to the United States over his leaks of military and diplomatic documents.