Speculation continues to mount about the fate of Julian Assange following a breakthrough in his marathon legal stalemate and a public visit from former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, who delivered gifts to the Wikileaks founder at London’s Ecuadorian embassy.
The bizarre development of Anderson’s second visit in a month, coupled with Swedish authorities finally questioning Mr Assange over rape allegations, has again sparked rumours that the beleaguered Australian may be cleared by United States President-elect Donald Trump.
With Mr Trump preparing to be sworn in as US president, Swedish prosecutors questioned Mr Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been holed up for four years, in an investigation into rape allegations dating back to 2010.
Mr Assange, who made himself an enemy of the US by publishing secret diplomatic cables, was granted asylum at the embassy over fears that, if he was extradited to Sweden, he may then be moved to America where he could be jailed for leaking US secrets.
Swedish prosecutor Ingrid Isgren questioned Mr Assange at the embassy for a second day on Tuesday.
The Swedish officials are also seeking a DNA sample from Assange.
A member of Mr Assange’s legal team, Melinda Taylor, told Reuters news agency that procrastination by Swedish investigators had denied Mr Assange the chance to clear his name.
“As a result of six years of delays and over four-and-a-half years of illegal and arbitrary detention, Mr Assange is today faced with [a] Hobson’s choice: either he gives a statement in which his health, memory and psychological state are severely impeded, or, he is denied once more, an opportunity to be heard,” she said.
Ms Anderson, meanwhile, was spotted outside the Ecuadorian embassy on Monday carrying a hamper full of food, including vegetarian burgers and fruit.
The 49-year-old former model and actress visited Mr Assange with a similar hamper in mid-October.
She told The Sun after that first visit: “I really believe in him and think he’s a good person, and I’m concerned about his health, his family, and I just hope that by some miracle he’s set free.”
Some gossip magazines have even speculated the pair are dating and possibly having a child, but these claims are unverified.
The pair met through UK fashion designer Vivienne Westwood in 2014 and Anderson has sought Mr Assange’s counsel on setting up her animal rights foundation.
Wikileaks’ election campaign email dumps hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, experts told The New Daily, and Mr Assange’s recent activity caused many to wonder whether Mr Trump had made a deal to free the Wikileaks founder for influencing the election in his favour.
Mr Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy since June 2013. He fears extradition to the US should he agree to be questioned in Sweden over a six-year-old rape allegation.
However, after six years of inaction by Sweden – and days after Mr Trump won the election – the Scandinavian country enlisted Ecuadorian officials to ask Mr Assange questions they had prepared for him relating to the allegations.
Wikileaks changed election: expert
Aaron Connelly, an expert on US affairs with the Lowy Institute, told The New Daily that Wikileaks’ role in Mrs Clinton’s shock US election loss was significant.
“Certainly Wikileaks’ leaks allowed people who were opposed to Clinton to portray her in a negative light based on fragmentary information,” Mr Connelly said.
“And frankly, through the mis-portrayal of private communications – that in context would not have been seen as negative as it was portrayed – I think it did have some affect.”
Thousands of supporters of both Wikileaks and Mr Trump, along with Republican Party figures, have called on the President-elect to pardon Mr Assange as payback for his role in the US election.
Even One Nation’s Pauline Hanson – a fan of Mr Trump – is pushing for the Wikileaks founder to be given a pass.
“I hope that in light of his great service towards freedom and truth President-elect Donald Trump will consider granting a full presidential pardon,” Ms Hanson wrote in a petition.
The United States has pursued those who leak classified information against the country in the past, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
The New Daily has contacted Mr Assange’s Australian representative seeking a response to the claims of an impending pardon.
Wikileaks released numerous damaging emails for Mrs Clinton during her doomed White House run. Those included Democratic Party conversations which sought to help Mrs Clinton to the nomination over primary rival Bernie Sanders and details of her speeches to large investment banks in the US.