LONDON — For Julian Assange, the world's most famous whistleblower, freedom could be dangerous.
As his residency at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London enters its seventh year, the self-styled cyber revolutionary – WikiLeaks' founder and controversial publisher of some of the world's most closely guarded official secrets – is facing a pair of converging crises that have left his allies fearing for his wellbeing and his safety.
Inside the embassy, he is living an increasingly secluded existence, having been stripped of his phones, computers and visitor privileges after running afoul of the very government that gave him asylum. Outside the embassy, he is embroiled in the global political scandal surrounding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, with questions about his role in that drama being raised by friends and foes alike.
In more ways than one, the very walls protecting Assange also appear to be closing in.
"Life goes on outside the embassy," journalist Vaughan Smith, one of Assange's staunchest supporters and perhaps the last friend to visit him, told ABC News. "But life doesn't go on inside."
In a series of interviews with his lawyers, supporters and friends, the people closest to Assange painted a bleak picture of his present and a grim outlook on his future, telling ABC News that he may both long for and dread the day he is forced out of the embassy.
"He's been effectively in solitary confinement," said Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson. "Julian has always said he's very happy to face British justice but not at the expense of having to face American injustice."