Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than 5 months, is believed to be suffering from “a chronic lung condition.” Ecuador’s ambassador to Britain, Ana Alban, told an Ecuadorian TV network on a recent trip to Quito that Assange’s condition “could lead to complications.” She explained that the cold, dark London winter and the fact Assange has not been outside in five months has been detrimental to his health, reports the Guardian.
Assange took refuge in the embassy in June in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden under the terms of a European Arrest warrant, notes Reuters. The founder of Wikileaks, an Internet clearinghouse for classified and sensitive information, he became famous for leaking thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables through the site. He is charged in Sweden with two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of rape. Assange has denied the allegations, calling Sweden “the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” as quoted by the New York Times. He fears if he is sent to Sweden he will be subject to subsequent extradition to the United States, where he could face imprisonment for his role in disseminating classified documents.
Since June, Assange has been staying in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy, living off take-away meals and relying on a treadmill for exercise. He uses a sunlamp to help compensate for nearly half a year without fresh air. Located in the posh London district of Knightsbridge, Ecuador’s diplomatic base is modest in comparison to other embassies and has no garden. “Imagine how well someone is in a space of 50 square meters [about 540 square feet], without much sun and poor air circulation,” Alban said. “It’s absolutely logical to think that a human being in these circumstances is not going to be living well.” Assange has had a number of visitors in recent months, including a dinner visit from popstar Lady Gaga. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also visited the Australian in October, showing her support by wearing tee-shirt which said “I am Julian Assange.”
The Ecuadorian Ambassador has confirmed that his government is covering Assange’s medical costs but fears that if his health continues to deteriorate and he does fall seriously ill, he will not be able to get proper medical care for fear of being arrested if he leaves the embassy. The Ecuadorian embassy voiced concern over Assange’s health in October, when ministers commented that the Wikileaks founder appeared to have lost weight. Alban has explained that Ecuador is “waiting for a meeting” with either the U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague or U.K. Secretary Theresa May to discuss the Australian’s future, reports the BBC.