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5 Feb, 2016 13:16

RT counts the financial & health costs of Assange’s ‘arbitrary detention’

RT counts the financial & health costs of Assange’s ‘arbitrary detention’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to a “deprivation of liberty” and “arbitrarily detained” in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the UN ruled on Friday. RT counts the costs.

The 44-year-old sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 after skipping police bail. He is avoiding an extradition charge to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault and rape.

But how much has his three-and-a-half year spell at the embassy cost? RT looks at the impact on the three countries involved, as well as the man himself.


Cost to the British taxpayer

Metropolitan Police officers have had the Ecuadorian embassy under 24-hour surveillance and protection while Assange has been inside. In February last year, it was revealed the extra security had cost the taxpayer £10 million.

The current figure stands at almost £14 million: the cost of 11,497,863 meals for the needy, 54,108 hospital beds for one night or 633 teachers’ salaries for a year, according to the site govwaste.co.uk, who have been tallying the running total.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson lambasted the cost.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous, that money should be spent on frontline policing. It’s completely wasted,” he said.

Cost to Assange’s health

The political asylum seeker has reportedly suffered ill-health as a result of spending years inside the building, without access to fresh air or sunlight. Previous reports indicate he needs treatment for high blood pressure, arrhythmia and a chronic cough.

According to Dr Sarah Jarvis, the biggest problem would be lack of vitamin D, which is usually taken in via sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can be the cause of depression, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Edge Hill professor Geoff Beattie said the mental toll of being stuck in the embassy would also have affected Assange’s physical health negatively.

“He may have been able to talk to friends on the phone or via Skype, but that’s not the same as person to person contact,” he said.

“This is very stressful and will take a big toll on his physical and mental health,” he added.

Cost to Ecuador

Britain isn’t the only country shelling out. On Friday, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa demanded compensation for hosting Assange.

“But who is going to compensate the harm that has been done to Julian Assange and to Ecuador? Do you know how much it costs to maintain security at the embassy?” asked the Ecuadorian leader. “We experienced spying attempts and lots of other things.”

He added the verdict reached on Friday “showed we were right, after all these years.”

Cost to Sweden

Swedish authorities have been engaged in a legal battle to extradite Assange since allegations he sexually assaulted two women in the country emerged in 2010. In August 2010, Sweden said it would drop the case, saying there was no reason “to suspect that he has committed rape.”

However, in September the case re-opened, with Swedish officials suggesting there was now evidence to suggest Assange had in fact committed the crime.

After Assange skipped bail and sought asylum in the embassy, Sweden tried to extradite him. Nevertheless, after a ruling from the Supreme Court, Assange was permitted to stay.

In August 2015, Sweden was forced to drop its investigation into one accusation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they ran out of time to question him. The charge of rape will not expire until 2020, under the statute of limitations.

With so much time and effort expended on the ongoing legal case, it’s not surprising Swedish authorities have rejected the UN ruling.