LONDON – Julian Assange lives in a pricey building in one of London’s toniest districts. But he is not staying in the lap of luxury.
The once globe-trotting WikiLeaks founder is confined to several hundred square feet of space inside Ecuador’s London embassy. If he goes outside he will be arrested by British police and extradited to Sweden to be questioned about allegations of sexual assault.
The 41-year-old Australian computer expert has spent almost two months inside the embassy of the Latin American country, which on Thursday granted him asylum – but Ecuador lacks any obvious means of getting Assange past the police officers on the doorstep, onto a plane and out of Britain.
The Ecuadorean embassy consists of a ground floor apartment, some 10 rooms in all, inside an imposing red-brick apartment block in London’s posh Knightsbridge area.
The mission has no bedrooms or guest accommodation. People who have visited Assange say he is living in an office that has been outfitted with a bed, access to a phone and a connection to the Internet. A shower has been installed, and the embassy has a small kitchenette. Assange also has received deliveries of pizza and other take-out food.
“It’s not quite the Hilton,” said Gavin MacFadyen, a supporter who has met with Assange at the embassy.
A treadmill provides some opportunity for exercise, and a sun lamp helps compensate for the lack of natural light.
Experts say the conditions are bound to take a psychological toll.
“He is stuck in no man’s land,” said Cary Cooper, a psychology professor at England’s Lancaster University.
“One of the things that causes people most stress is not having any control,” Cooper said. “He has none.”