A year on and it's still unclear: Does God have a Julian Assange complex?

Where once we all had an opinion about Assange - seditious sex criminal or heroic freedom fighter? - we have since had our attention turned elsewhere

Share

Every morning, on my way to the Tube station, I pass an unprepossessing west London mansion block. Yesterday, on a still, sultry morning, the yellow, red and blue flag that normally flies outside the building was lifeless, drooping, almost sorry for itself. Pedestrians passed by this unremarkable scene as they made way to Harrods. A lone policeman stood vigil, but seemed more interested in the movements of a team of scaffolders across the road.

How different it all was a year ago, when this corner of Knightsbridge was the focus of the world's attention. The pavement was barricaded to keep all the photographers and cameramen at bay, mobile TV studios lined the road, and a makeshift, Portakabin police station was built to house the regular press conferences, and to quarter the dozens and dozens of constables who surrounded the building.

By now, you'll probably have worked out that this is the location of the Ecuadorian Embassy, home for these past 12 months to Julian Assange, once the most infamous public figure in the world, but who now goes about his daily business of extradition-dodging in the embassy, which apparently involves a rather large period of time on a sun bed, unnoticed and unremarked upon.

Where once we all had an opinion about Assange - seditious sex criminal or heroic freedom fighter? - we have since had our attention turned towards Edward Snowden, this year's poster boy for the whistle-blowing classes.

I met Assange only once, at a small dinner party he was forced to leave early as a condition of his electronic tagging arrangements. I had one direct conversation with him, which I opened with a gentle enquiry about the current state of his legal case. He fixed me with his alien-like stare. "The Swedish prosecutor," he said, and then paused for effect and stress, "...who is the ugliest woman I've ever met." This was the last thing I expected from a man whose sexual behaviour was under the most intense scrutiny, but he warmed to this peculiar theme. "She's like a cross between a Sherman tank and Joseph Stalin." I countered with a sarcastic response, along the lines that I never knew that good looks and femininty were important requisites for a senior legal figure, but he carried on regardless, assuring those around the table of his persecution at the hands of evil governments.

We all thought he had a God complex. I believe he thinks that God has got a Julian Assange complex. A year or so on, I still don't quite know what I think about Mr Assange. I believe people can be judged by their friends, and some of those who have supported Mr Assange - the likes of Jemima Khan and the lawyer Geoffrey Robertson - are figures with whom I have generally had common cause. But I was so put off by that exchange over dinner, which - superficial and relatively insignificant though it may have been - is clearly very revealing of the mindset of a man who apparently has a problem with treating women in a respectful way. Which, it should be remembered, is at the root of why he is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, and probably will be so for some time to come.

Simon Kelner is away for two weeks.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas