Is WikiLeaks founder being granted freedom because of bad hygiene?

Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in May 2017 following Sweden’s dropping of sexual assault charges against the WikiLeaks founder. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in May 2017 following Sweden’s dropping of sexual assault charges against the WikiLeaks founder. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nonpolitical reasons: his body odor.

The foreign minister of Ecuador, María Fernanda Espinosa, has said the country is “considering and exploring the possibility of mediation” to resolve the “untenable” situation with Assange’s stay in the embassy.

According to reports, Assange rarely bathes and doesn’t wash his hands after eating. “Unless the people around him force him into the shower, he might not change his clothes for days,” Jérémie Zimmermann, a friend and former colleague, wrote in 2012.

An aide close to Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, told the International Business Times: “Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life.”

A source inside the embassy told the IBT that Assange “doesn’t wash properly,” and that complaints by the staff may have prompted the Ecuadorian government to make arrangements for him to leave.

There’s only one bathroom in the embassy, which the staff has to share with Assange, according to the IBT report.

Assange has lived at the embassy for five years as a de facto political prisoner for avoiding arrest on sexual assault charges in Sweden. That case was dropped, but Assange still faces jail time for skipping bail. He could be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

He also could still be extradited to the U.S. for leaking documents revealing military secrets and diplomatic cables in 2010. He’s remained the public face and head of WikiLeaks while living at the embassy and continues to publish secret documents.

The Ecuadorian government has granted Assange citizenship, but its application to give him diplomatic status was turned down by the British government.

It may not just be his alleged smell that is causing trouble for Assange with the Ecuadorians. His recent criticism of Ecuadorian ally Spain for human rights violations may have strained relations.

In October Assange tweeted:


“Witch hunt begins against Catalonian judges. In a private forum, a judge criticized Spanish police terrorizing Catalan voters calling them ‘uniformed terrorists’,” wrote Assange.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “The comments by Mr. Julian Assange do not represent the position of the Ecuadorian State.”

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