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It’s perhaps no surprise that Julian Assange’s first social visitor in prison was his ardent supporter and purveyor of vegan sandwiches, "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson.
Anderson — outfitted in a cape/blanket with the words “free speech,” “gagged,” and “shackled” printed on it — made a trip Tuesday to the austere Belmarsh prison in southeast London, where Assange has spent the last month. Speaking to reporters outside the facility alongside WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristin Hrafnsson, Anderson called the experience “shocking and difficult.”
“He does not deserve to be in a supermax prison,” she said. “He has never committed a violent act. He’s an innocent person.”
Assange, who’s battling an extradition request by the U.S. to face hacking conspiracy charges, spends just an hour outside his cell each day and has few ways to communicate with the outside world. The U.K. Inspectorate of Prisons has cited Belmarsh for overcrowding, violence, and other poor conditions.
"It is for me shocking to see my friend, an intellectual, a publisher, a journalist — a man who has transformed the world of journalism with his work — sitting in a high-security prison," Hrafnsson said.
On April 11, British authorities dragged Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’d sought asylum to avoid a Swedish extradition request to face sexual assault charges in 2012. A U.K. judge since handed him a 50-week prison sentence for skipping bail in that case.
But Assange and his allies have portrayed the U.S. extradition request as a far greater threat to the WikiLeaks co-founder — and press freedom.
The Justice Department alleges that Assange helped former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning attempt to hack into a Pentagon computer system to access classified national security cables. Lawyers steeped in extradition law have told VICE News that the case, which resumes on May 30, could drag on for years.
Anderson’s relationship with Assange has been a source of global curiosity throughout his ordeal. In October 2016, as WikiLeaks was disseminating hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the former Playboy model brought Assange a vegan sandwich at the Ecuadorian embassy. Soon after, the media activist’s Internet was unexpectedly cutoff, which caused unfounded speculation that Anderson was some sort of intelligence operative.
The next year, she wrote Assange an open letter, in which she called him a “decent and fair man” — and also “sexy.” “I love you, Pamela,” she signed off.
During her visit to Belmarsh Tuesday, she took the opportunity to reiterate her affections.
“I love him,” she told reporters. “I can’t imagine what he’s been going through.”
Cover image: US actress Pamela Anderson and WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson speak to the media as they leave Belmarsh Prison in south-east London after she visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Press Association via AP Images)