Amid growing public concern for Julian Assange’s cat in the face of the WikiLeaks’ founder’s arrest, the organization has provided video evidence that the feline is alive and well.
“We can confirm that Assange’s cat is safe,” WikiLeaks tweeted Saturday. “Assange asked his lawyers to rescue him from embassy threats in mid-October. They will be reunited in freedom. #FreeAssange #NoExtradition.”
The tweet accompanied a video of a cat that indeed looks very much like Assange’s pet, sitting in front of a TV playing footage of Assange’s Thursday arrest.
The cat began living with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as a kitten in 2016. Assange told The New Yorker in a 2017 article that the tabby was a gift from his children, though an anonymous source told the outlet that Assange had fabricated that story.
The cat ― or rather, Assange’s allegedly lax attitude as a pet owner ― was also one purported source of strife between the computer programmer and the embassy, according to an October report from The Guardian.
Following Assange’s arrest, speculation swirled about the cat’s fate. Journalist James Ball tweeted that he had offered to adopt the cat, but the animal had been “reportedly given to a shelter by the Ecuadorian embassy ages ago.”
But Hanna Jonasson, a member of Assange’s legal team, had tweeted back in November that Ecuador had merely “threatened” to send the cat to a shelter, and that Assange had subsequently given the cat to his lawyers to take to his family.
Assange’s Thursday arrest came after Ecuador terminated Assange’s diplomatic immunity. He had previously been residing at the embassy for nearly seven years, where he initially was taking refuge to avoid extradition after being accused of sexual assault and rape by two women in Sweden.
His arrest this week stemmed from breach of bail conditions in the rape case as well as a United States extradition request on a conspiracy charge, his lawyer Jen Robinson said on Twitter. The conspiracy charge was “in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” according to an unsealed indictment from U.S. prosecutors.
Advocates for press freedom have warned that prosecuting Assange in for his WikiLeaks ― which broke multiple major news stories over the years ― could set a chilling precedent for other publishers and news outlets that release classified documents.