Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been transferred to the segregation unit of Wandsworth prison, south London, where the authorities are planning to give him limited access to the internet, it emerged on Thursday.
Mr. Assange, the most famous inmate in the Victorian jail, met his legal team on Thursday after being sent there on remand when he was refused bail on Tuesday. Sweden is seeking his extradition over allegations of sexual assault.
Mr. Assange is thought to have asked to be housed away from other prisoners, who had shown a high degree of interest in him after he arrived. A source said other inmates had been supportive of Assange, whom the U.S. has accused of jeopardising its national security by releasing a flood of confidential diplomatic documents.
Mr. Assange’s legal team will attempt to secure bail for him from Westminster magistrates next Tuesday.
His solicitor, Mark Stephens, said Mr. Assange was “quite chipper -- he seemed to be bearing up”. Mr. Assange was wearing a grey prison tracksuit because he did not have any of his own clothes. The decision by the judge to remand him in custody had taken the WikiLeaks founder and his lawyers by surprise, and he went to prison in the clothes he was wearing.
Mr. Assange complained about the daytime TV, Stephens said, adding that “he doesn’t have access to a computer, even without an internet connection, or to writing material. He’s got some files but doesn’t have any paper to write on and put them in.” In the wake of online attacks on corporations by pro-WikiLeaks hackers, Stephens said Mr. Assange was concerned that “people have unjustly accused WikiLeaks of inspiring cyber attacks”.
Mr. Assange, 39, was seen by a doctor when he arrived at Wandsworth -- all prisoners are assessed to see if they pose a suicide risk. He was kept for a night in the prison’s Onslow centre, which contains sex offenders and others assessed to be vulnerable.
As part of a scheme called “access to justice”, prison authorities are arranging for Mr. Assange to be given a computer so he can work on his case. The computer will have limited internet access.
Mr. Assange asked for one of his legal team to be allowed to bring him a laptop, but was refused -- prisoners are not commonly allowed their own computers.
Mr. Assange, who was born in Australia, also saw officials from the Australian high commission yesterday. He has his own cell and because of the consular and legal visits did not exercise, but will normally get one hour a day. Because he is in the segregation unit, his association with other prisoners will be limited.
Swedish prosecutors want to interview Mr. Assange about allegations of sexual assault against two women. His lawyers say they fear the U.S. will attempt to extradite him to face charges over the release of hundreds of thousands of secret cables, although Washington has not so far launched any legal action against him.
In a letter to the Guardian today, prominent supporters including John Pilger, Terry Jones, Miriam Margolyes and AL Kennedy call for Mr. Assange’s release. “We protest at the attacks on WikiLeaks and, in particular, on Julian Assange,” they write, adding that the leaks have “assisted democracy in revealing the real views of our governments over a range of issues”.
Meanwhile, in a calculated dig at the U.S. -- whose cables described Moscow as a corrupt “mafia state” -- the Russian president praised Mr. Assange. “Public and nongovernmental organisations should think of how to help him,” a source inside Dmitry Medvedev’s office told Russian news agencies, adding: “Maybe, nominate him as a Nobel prize laureate.”