The founder of WikiLeaks has been the target of a protracted spying operation from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up since 2012, the anti-secrecy group claimed Wednesday.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said at a news conference that images, audio recordings, and security videos of Julian Assange were recovered by Spanish police in Madrid during a sting operation. The unnamed individuals in the sting had threatened to start publishing the items unless they were paid $3.4 million, according to WikiLeaks.
“WikiLeaks has uncovered an extensive spying operation against Julian Assange within the Ecuadorean embassy,” Hrafnsson said.
Officials said that some of the material came from video cameras inside the embassy that were able to record audio. The cameras were installed last year at the embassy after a new government took power in Ecuador.
Hrafnsson claimed the surveillance was "total invasion of privacy" that led Assange to live a "Truman Show existence" and was clearly an escalation by the new government to get him to leave and be extradited to the United States.
“We know that there was a request to hand over visitors’ logs from the embassy and video recordings from within the security cameras in the embassy,” he told reporters, adding that he assumed the information had been handed over to the Trump Administration.
Assange’s relations with his hosts have soured since Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life, according to Reuters. Moreno has said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.
Officials did not say on Wednesday whether Assange was planning to leave the embassy on his own anytime soon, adding that they would need assurances from U.K. officials that he would not be extradited to the U.S, the Guardian reported.
Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning on sexual misconduct allegations.
Though a rape accusation was later dropped, there is still an active warrant for his arrest in Britain for failing to comply with his bail terms. Assange also fears the possibility of extradition to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.