Ellingham Hall’s Vaughan Smith “delighted” Julian Assange given political asylum and speaks of life living with him

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 August 2012

Vaughan Smith. Picture: PA Wire/Press Association Images.

Vaughan Smith. Picture: PA Wire/Press Association Images.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

An independent news video journalist who put forward £20,000 as he hosted Julian Assange for a year on bail, has spoken of his delight after the WikiLeaks founder has been granted political asylum.

Vaughan Smith and his family welcomed Mr Assange, who created the whistleblowing website, into their home at Ellingham Hall, near Bungay, between December 2010 and December 2011.

Now as Mr Assange, who is facing sex crime allegations in Sweden, waits in the Ecuadorian embassy in London having been granted political asylum in the South American country, Mr Smith has spoken about his joy at this latest development, and what it was like having such a house guest.

“I am absolutely delighted that my friend Julian Assange has succeeded in getting political asylum, it is a very significant and important thing,” said Mr Smith, 49.

“The Ecuadorian government are the only people who have considered properly the issues surrounding whether Julian Assange is vulnerable to persecution and concluded that indeed he is.

“He is politically vulnerable, a political refugee and walked into an embassy in London, and we have a slight problem in Great Britain with that.”

Mr Smith said he had been surprised that Mr Assange went to the embassy, but had visited him there to find him living in one room, with a microwave for a kitchen.

He said: “He was feeling in good shape and mentally still fit. He seems to be content, to an extent, with access to a computer, so he can still work.”

Mr Smith said he was not quite sure what would happen next and called the current position a “slightly sulky stalemate” with foreign secretary William Hague making it clear that Mr Assange would not be allowed safe passage out of the country.

He believes the authorities from Sweden should interview him in the embassy and that Mr Assange is convinced that if he goes to Sweden he would be extradited to America for further court action.

Mr Smith said he did not want to lose the £20,000 he had put forward for bail, but felt the safety of Mr Assange was more important as he feared he could face jail or even a death sentence in America.

He welcomed Mr Assange into his home after being asked to hold a press conference for him through the Frontline Club, which campaigns for independent journalism.

In total Mr Assange spent 13 months living at Ellingham Hall with Mr Smith, his wife Pranvera, 34, and their two daughters, aged six and five. Mr Smith’s older two daughters also spent time at the home.

He said they were delighted to welcome him into his home, although admitted he did not expect it to be such a long period of time.

He added that Mr Assange had an average of six to eight people with him in his home, with as many as 20 from across the world at times.

“He is a very bright man, a very informed man, and as a journalist informed company is good to be around. He has an engrossing sense of humour and is a person very tolerant of other points of view,” he said.

Mr Assange left when it was clear he would be staying in the country even longer, and the Smith family were preparing to welcome a baby boy into their home.

“Mr Assange came to the conclusion it was time to go and we were sorry to see him go but thought it was the right decision,” said Mr Smith.

“There was no bad feeling, he was very amicable, extremely grateful for hospitality and we were delighted to have him.”

Mr Smith said that he has not been criticised for his role and has tried to improve the understanding of people of the situation.

“I think it is very important and respected that people need to stand up and argue for him, and equally it is important people argue against him,” he said.

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