We now know that Julian Assange’s cat, who lived with him in the Ecuadorian embassy for a time, is safe and being looked after, but we didn’t know this when I asked about it late last month. And I didn’t know that asking about it would result in the ‘Defend Assange Campaign’ getting in touch.
But before we get to that, an update on the cat is in order. WikiLeaks posted the below video of the cat watching Assange on the news, saying that the cat was removed from the embassy in October following “embassy threats”.
Those threats were presumably that the embassy would confiscate the cat if Assange didn’t properly look after the cat’s “wellbeing, food and hygiene”.
The update from WikiLeaks follows the huge number of enquiries that were made after the cat’s wellbeing following Assange’s arrest, because people love cats, and love for cats transcends all political differences.
As a cat lover myself, I found myself wondering how Assange’s cat was doing late last month, as can happen when the mind wanders. So I tweeted “Does anyone know if Assange’s cat is still alive?”, which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best phrasing, but I was struck by an immediate and all-encompassing wave of concern for the cat, and I was anxious.
I quickly deleted my tweet, but not quickly enough, because I soon had the ‘Defend Assange Campaign’ in my DMs, sending me strange links full of legal documents that, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with the cat.
They opened by asking if I was working on a story about Assange’s cat (I wasn’t), and directed me to several pages, including one titled ‘False statements and defamations regarding Julian Assange and WikiLeaks‘, which included a list of the “most common defamations” made against Assange and WikiLeaks.
They highlighted the part they really wanted me to see, which was #9.28:
“It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever neglected an animal or ever tortured a cat or dog.”
They went on to highlight other ‘common defamations’ regarding Assange and his cat for me:
“It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange filed a lawsuit or any other measure against Ecuador over his pet cat, laundry or cleaning [in fact, his cat is not at the embassy since before the protection case was even filed.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Ecuador suggested that Julian Assange did not look after his cat or asked him to improve his care of it.”
How they got all of those alleged defamations from ‘is Assange’s cat still alive’, I don’t know, but when I asked if all of this legalese was designed to intimidate me, they said:
“They’re designed to assist the accurate and honourable and to put the inaccurate and dishonourable on notice.”
Ominous as hell.
And through all of that, they didn’t even tell me if the cat was okay, another Assange supporter did:
The ‘Defend Assange Campaign’ describes itself as an “account run by the legal campaign to free Julian Assange”, but when I asked which legal professionals were behind the account, I received no response.
According to their website, the campaign is run by The Courage Foundation, which counts amongst its advisory board members Russian activists Pussy Riot.
I’m no closer to understanding why a simple question about a cat’s wellbeing warranted a barrage of messages alluding to potential violations of defamation law, but at least I know the cat’s okay.