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Australians ask PM Morrison if he knew about CIA plot to kill Assange

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange posts a sign on the Woolwich Crown Court fence, ahead of a hearing to decide whether Assange should be extradited to the United States, in London, Britain February 25, 2020. (Reuters file photo)

A group of prominent Australians have asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to explain if he was aware of an alleged CIA plot to kill or kidnap WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Britain.

A report revealed this week that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had contemplated kidnapping or assassinating Assange and others during the administration of former President Donald Trump, while he was living in Ecuador's embassy in London.

The group of 21 lawyers, journalists, academics, and activists, who had once visited Assange in the embassy sent a letter to Morrison on Thursday, demanding his government’s explanation on the events, the ABC reported.

They demanded the prime minister reveal whether they were also caught up in the US 2017 plot and if their lives, were ever at risk.

"We wish to know what surveillance or monitoring we have been subjected to by the intelligence agencies of our allies, the United Kingdom and United States," the letter states.

"Were any of us placed on speculative kill lists?” it asked.

"We also believe we have a right to know whether the Australian government was informed or consented to our communications and movements being tracked,” the signatories asked.

They also criticized Canberra for ignoring difficulties of Australian citizens living abroad.

"It's one thing [for the government] to ignore an Australian overseas who's in difficulty," wrote one of the letter's signatories, barrister Julian Burnside.

“It's altogether another to ignore an Australian overseas who may be murdered by another government, a government that is ostensibly an ally,” he said referring to Washington.

Another of the signatories, lawyer Lizzie O'Shea, said Canberra’s close ties with Washington doesn’t have to “come at the expense of our citizens' rights.”

The ABC has reported last year that Washington and London may have been behind an illegal surveillance operation targeting Assange and others in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Assange was holed up in the embassy building from 2012 to 2019, fighting extradition to the United States, where he could be imprisoned for up to 175 years for espionage charges.

Assange was arrested in London in 2019, after he was expelled from the embassy.

He has been confined to London's Belmarsh Prison since then, after being convicted of breaching bail over a Swedish sexual assault allegation, which has since been withdrawn.

Washington still continues to seek his extradition to the US.

The latest report by Yahoo News on Sunday has now revealed that Washington plotted to kidnap or kill Assange soon after March 2017, when WikiLeaks started publishing a catch of top-secret CIA documents.

The CIA later acknowledge that the information released by the whistle-blower website, was "the largest data loss in CIA history.”

A month after WikiLeaks began publishing the data, Mike Pompeo — foreign secretary of the Trump administration — was appointed as CIA director.

Pompeo, at the time, called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

According to the Yahoo report, Pompeo then allowed CIA executives more latitude when considering how to target Assange and WikiLeaks.

That latitude led to the plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange and other "Europe-based WikiLeaks members,” it said.

It said that discussions for killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” isde the CIA and the Trump administration, with “no boundaries.”

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