A London court has heard how US intelligence sources discussed plans with a private security firm to kidnap or poison Australian activist Julian Assange as he took asylum in the UK’s Ecuadorian embassy.
The court is preparing to rule on whether the 49-year-old WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to the US, where he faces charges including 17 counts of espionage and another count of computer misuse.
Two witnesses, who were reportedly granted anonymity by Judge Vanessa Baraitser over concerns for their safety, told the court in written statements that Mr Assange had been the subject of a bugging operation from 2017 onwards.
The pair worked for a Spanish firm that were contracted to provide security at the embassy.
Their written statements alleged the director of a firm called Undercover Global, David Morales, had ordered the installation of cameras and microphones in the embassy to record the meetings he had, specifically the discussions he had with his lawyers.
Mr Morales allegedly told them the operation was at the request of “American friends” who had compensated him handsomely.
One of the witnesses alleged hearing Mr Morales describe “the Americans” as “desperate”, and it was then suggested “more extreme measures should be employed … to put an end to the situation”.
A kidnapping plot that involved leaving a door at the embassy open to make it look like an accident was allegedly hatched, and there was also a suggestion that Mr Assange be poisoned included in the witness statement.
One of the witnesses reportedly did say they had installed a microphone in a toilet at the embassy, which “was never removed and may still be there”.
According to Nine Newspapers, orders were also given to steal a nappy from Mr Assange’s son Gabriel in an attempt to establish paternity.
The witness refused and instead tipped off the mother, Stella Morris, and told her not to bring the child to the embassy.
The US government’s lawyers didn’t object to the statements but argued they weren’t relevant to the matter.
Mr Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, following WikiLeaks’ disclosure of a trove of leaked documents, including ones that exposed the actions of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was ejected from the embassy in April last year and has been in a UK jail ever since.
The hearing to determine whether he should be extradited to the US was originally delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but is due to wrap up by the end of this week.