UK

Julian Assange Claims GCHQ Officials Cast Doubt Over Extradition, Called It A 'Fit-Up'

20/05/2013 09:10 BST | Updated 20/05/2013 11:44 BST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed that "spies" at one of the UK's intelligence agencies openly discussed his predicament over instant messenger, with one suggesting allegations against him were a "fit-up".

The revelations, sure to embarrass authorities at GCHQ, were revealed by Assange on a Spanish TV programme, after a special access request, made under the Data Protection Act, the contents of which he said "are not public yet".

Holding a sheaf of paper, he told the interview programme Salvados: "Just recently we received this from GCHQ, and it won't hand over classified information, but much to its own surprise it did have some unclassified information on us. It had some instant messaging between its spies."

julian assange

Julian Assange has claimed GCHQ employees were discussing his case on instant messanger

GCHQ told HuffPost UK that the messages were authentic and provided to Assange after his request, but were casual conversations about news stories, unrelated to any official duties.

The first instant message conversation from August 31 allegedly reads:

"You've seen Assange's prediction?"

"No"

"He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months when the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it?

"He's a fool"

"Yeah"

"A highly optimistic fool"

He then reads another from September, saying: "They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ, it's definitely a fit-up though. Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate."

A GCHQ spokesman told HuffPost UK: "As was made clear to Mr Assange when the information was disclosed to him, the comments that he refers to in his recent interview were a small number of casual observations on a current affairs issue made by a handful of staff on GCHQ's internal informal communication channels.

"The comments were entirely unrelated to the individuals' official duties.

"We acknowledge that some of these comments were inappropriate but emphasise that no decisions were taken by GCHQ on the basis of these comments, nor was any reliance placed on them.

"We have reminded staff of the importance of professional behaviour at all times."

Assange said he has also made Freedom of Information requests to the police, without success.

"We made a request to the police here, the government has already admitted it cost £4.5m to surround this embassy with police, but they won't hand over any documents under the Freedom of information Act because it "concerns an investigation". We know there is no investigation," he told the interviewer Jordi Évole.

Assange also revealed he was cautious about everything he wrote online. "Everything I say in email or SMS can be used in espionage prosecution. The US is finding ways to make everything classified."

The campaigner has spent 11 months in the Ecuadorian embassy, seeking asylum from extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted to face questioning over two sexual offences.

Police are consistently present outside the Embassy, but Assange insists he is perfectly content in the Knightsbridge pad." Journalists want to hear that I am suffering, but i am fine, I am doing the work of my life so even in quite difficult circumstances it is satisfying," he said.

"Sometimes I wonder if I have overstepped the mark, but the work I am doing is so satisfying to my principles that I am firm in my convictions."