Emails have emerged that purportedly show ties between Ukip under Nigel Farage's leadership and Julian Assange in 2011. The revelations come a day after Farage was photographed leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange is currently living.
Yesterday (9 March) Buzzfeed caught the former Ukip leader leaving Assange's makeshift residence in West London. When quizzed by reporters as to why he was there, he replied: "I never discuss where I go or who I see."
It has been speculated that if Farage did meet Assange then it may have been related to Farage's new role as a radio host on the LBC network as he was seen leaving the building with Christian Mitchell, head of operations at the station.
But now emails leaked to Business Insider show that Ukip, while under Farage's rule, reached out to the Wikileaks figurehead in February 2011. At that time Assange was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) relating to allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
An email from the office of Ukip MEP Gerard Batten to Assange's lawyer Mark Stevens asks about the "possibility of meeting Mr Julian Assange." It adds: "Ukip London has been the only British political party to openly support Mr Assange fight against EAW and his freedom of speech, and we would very much like to continue doing so."
The leaked email is dated 4 February 2011. It appears to have been warmly received because a further leak shows that six days later, on 10 February, Batten and Stevens were in the same room.
The minutes of their meeting, marked "strictly private and confidential", show that Batten pledged to bring a motion into the European Parliament supporting Assange against the EAW.
And Batten was as good as his word: a motion tabled by the Ukip-led Freedom and Democracy group tabled a motion titled "the possible abuse of the European Arrest Warrant for political purposes".
During the debate, with Farage sat by his side, Batten asked the chamber:"Is the Assange case about the alleged crimes committed or is it about the desire of America to extradite him from a compliant European country?"
Batten would later go on Russian state broadcaster RT UK and claim that attempts to extradite Assange were "nothing better than legalised kidnap."
In March 2016, Ukip organised a House of Lords event with Stevens as the guest of honour to draw attention to the use of the EAW. A further email leaked to Business Insider sent by Farage's former assistant Annabelle Fuller appears to describe Farage speaking to Stevens at the event.
Yesterday White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that President Donald Trump had no involvement in Farage's decision to visit the embassy.
He said: "I have my own concerns here, keeping track of what everyone's doing. I generally don't worry about what's going on across the pond."