WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at risk of being assassinated over the release of secret US documents and will remain in hiding for his own security, the website’s spokesman says.
Spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the Australian’s safety was at stake after US politicians called for him to face treason charges and an adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly said he should be killed.
“We have had threats from governments and commentators, some of them totally preposterous, even calls for the assassination of Julian Assange,” Hrafnsson said during a debate at the Frontline Club in London.
“He is justified in being concerned for his safety. When you have people calling, for example, for his assassination, it is best to keep a low profile,” he added.
Hrafnsson said Assange’s whereabouts would remain secret. He is known to have recently spent time in Sweden and London and is the subject of an Interpol arrest request over a rape allegation in Sweden.
He has faced calls from the United States for his arrest, with Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential hopeful, reportedly saying that those responsible for the leaks were guilty of treason and should face execution, CNN reported.
Separately, Tom Flanagan, an adviser to Canada’s prime minister, said flippantly in a television interview that Assange “should be assassinated” and that US President Barack Obama “should put out a contract and maybe use a drone.”
Hrafnsson, an Icelandic former journalist, defended Assange’s decision to remain in hiding and not to face up to the Swedish arrest warrant, saying the timing of the Interpol alert was “curious”.
“He is in a secret location and working on the project with a group of our staff. It is necessary in the circumstances to keep his location secret,” Hrafnsson said.
The spokesman also pointed to the fact that WikiLeaks was suffering repeated cyber attacks as evidence that it was being targeted.
“We know the interest of the US government in bringing down WikiLeaks,” he said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused WikiLeaks on Monday of an “attack on the international community” by releasing the documents, but Hrafnsson insisted that WikiLeaks had done nothing illegal.
“There has been a lot of talk about legal actions taken against Wikileaks and Julian, about how we have done something illegal, that we are criminals, but we have not seen any reference to how we are supposed to have broken the law,” he said.