WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange secretly had two children while inside the Ecuadorian embassy, his partner says: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Julian Assange secretly fathered two children while living inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, his partner has revealed in a plea for him to be released from prison.
The Wikileaks founder’s partner, Stella Morris, made the revelation to the courts supporting an application for bail from HMP Belmarsh in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Morris said has gone to great lengths to shield the children from the climate surrounding their father, but was making the statement now because their lives were “on the brink” and she feared Mr Assange could die.
He has been held in the London prison since being dragged out of the embassy a year ago, and is awaiting an extradition hearing on behalf of the United States, where he faces 18 charges over the activities of WikiLeaks which could theoretically amount to 175 years in jail.
He has also been in poor health for months, but friends say coronavirus is now spreading through Belmarsh.
One inmate is reported to have died and several others are thought to be infected. Several prison officers are off work and are suspected of having the virus, Mr Assange’s friends claim.
In a statement to the courts, Ms Morris reveals that she met Mr Assange in 2011 when she was a legal researcher, and was asked to look into Swedish legal theory and practice.
“Over time Julian and I developed a strong intellectual and emotional bond. He became my best friend and I become his,” she wrote.
The friendship developed, and despite the “extraordinary circumstances”, a close relationship began in 2015, she said.
The couple now have two young children, Ms Morris said – three-year-old Gabriel and Max, who is one.
Mr Assange sought refuge in the London-based embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, which he denied and were later dropped.
Ms Morris was reported to have been one of his most frequent visitors, as a member of his legal team.
He and Ms Morris managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian officials, according to the Mail on Sunday, which published an interview with the South African-born lawyer.
Both children had visited their father in children, the paper reported, adding that Mr Assange had watched the birth of both children at London hospitals via live video link.
He is now in isolation for 23 hours a day and all visits have stopped, Ms Morris said.
“My close relationship with Julian has been the opposite of how he is viewed – of reserve, respect for each other and attempts to shield each other from some of the nightmares that have surrounded our lives together,” Ms Morris said.
The extradition hearing is fixed for 18 May. A Westminster Magistrates’ Court judge rejected calls for an adjournment until September over what his legal team said were “insuperable” difficulties preparing his case due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the preliminary hearings, Mr Assange’s lawyers claimed Donald Trump had offered to pardon him if he said that Russia was not involved in a leak of Democratic party emails ahead of the 2016 US election.
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the allegations “ a complete fabrication”, adding: ”This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”
Campaigners and friends have warned of Mr Assange’s deteriorating health for some time.
His father, John Shipton, recently told the BBC that an extradition to the US would be akin to “a death sentence”.
Additional reporting by PA
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