‘You can’t pretend it didn’t happen’: Labor MP calls on government to press US on alleged Assange plot

Labor MP Julian Hill says the United States government must answer a “credible allegation” that its spy agency planned to kidnap or even kill Julian Assange while he evaded possible charges in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

He said the Australian government must challenge its closest security ally after a media report last month claimed the Central Intelligence Agency raised the prospect of capturing the WikiLeaks founder because it feared the Australian was plotting an escape of his own.

Julian Assange, pictured in 2017 at the Ecuadorian embassy.Credit:AP

The report, published by Yahoo News, relied on interviews with 30 former US officials and said three detailed a plot to kill Assange.

Mr Hill, who is a prominent figure in the 23-member bipartisan Bring Julian Assange Home parliamentary group, said the claims should not be treated like “the James Bond premiere”.

“This is real life. This is a credible allegation, not by some fringe nutty conspiracy website,” Mr Hill told an online “Politics in the Pub” event hosted by veteran journalist Mary Kostakidis earlier this month.

“This is an allegation that has sources behind it, that the intelligence agency of our biggest ally and security partner was seriously drawing up plans to murder one of our own citizens in an extraterritorial killing.

“It sounds kind of mad when you say it … but this is ridiculous, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. It requires a formal discussion with the US government.”

Assange, who has been detained in London’s Belmarsh Prison since Ecuador revoked his asylum in April 2019, is trying to avoid extradition to the US to face charges over the hacking and publication of classified documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic cables a decade ago. His next legal hearing is set for later this month.

Assange’s lawyers have repeatedly argued the US attempt to extradite him is politically motivated.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne most recently raised Assange’s case with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during her visit to Washington DC last month as part of the annual Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) talks.

She conveyed the federal government’s expectations that Assange was “entitled to due process, humane and fair treatment, access to proper medical and other care and access to his legal team”, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

However, her face-to-face meeting with Mr Blinken was 11 days before the original story was published.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has refused to either confirm or deny the specific allegations, but said last month Yahoo News’ sources “didn’t know what we were doing”. Former US president Donald Trump denied he ever considered having Assange assassinated, telling the news website: “It’s totally false.”

Mr Hill was a part of a cross-party delegation of Australian MPs who met the US embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Michael Goldman, in March, arguing the Australian citizen should be allowed to return home.

Mr Hill said it “wasn’t hard” to get an appointment at the US embassy.

“If I can do it, as an opposition backbencher, I’m sure the Foreign Minister can get in there to convey the view and ask the important question. It’s not acceptable,” he said.

Mr Hill attempted to formalise the Australian Labor Party’s position on Assange at its virtual national conference earlier this year. A motion that Labor believes “it is now time for this long-drawn-out case against Julian Assange to be brought to an end” was passed.

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