US dismisses ‘evidence’ of Assange grand jury

US dismisses ‘evidence’ of Assange grand jury

On the ABC’s Q&A program last night, information activist and wikileaks supporter Matt Wattpresented documents to US ambassador Jeff Bleich, claiming to provide evidence of a US grand jury indictment for Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

“These are subpoenas for two US citizens, one is David House, the other one is unnamed, for a grand jury, it’s got the grand jury number on it as well, will you now admit the grand jury exists?” Mr Watt asked Mr Bleich on the program.

David House, who is named in one of the documents brandished by Mr Watt, testified at a grand jury hearing over his involvement with alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning in June 2011.

The US has repeatedly reaffirmed its position to not discuss the alleged existence of a grand jury tasked with extraditing Mr Assange from Sweden on charges of espionage.

Last night, Mr Bleich dismissed such claims, saying people misunderstood the US’s refusal to discuss a grand jury as confirmation that it exists.

“This is one of those sort of ‘gotcha’ things that people love to do about Julian Assange,” he said on the program.

“The United States has nothing to do with it [Assange’s charges in Sweden], we are not connected to it in anyway. And to say there must be something going on that is secret is…it’s movies and fantasies and spy novels.”

Mr Watt says the reference carried by the documents, ““10GJ3793”, reveals an active grand jury reference number for Mr Assange’s extradition and indictment, with “GJ” indicating “grand jury”.

“The two documents are subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Virginia in the US. It doesn’t give the exact description of Wikileaks, but it does give the same description of charges that they are investigating,” Mr Watt told SBS.

“It’s quite publically known that there is a grand jury underway for Mr Assange and these documents confirm that with a grand jury number that is identical on both documents.”

But Mr Watt accepts that even if the documents are legitimate, it could be a coincidence that there are similar espionage cases underway before a possible grand jury.

“That’s a fair assumption to make, but David House is a friend of Bradley Manning and he was involved with the Bradley Manning Support group who transcribed the grand jury events when he appeared, even though it wasn’t allowed,” he said.

Mr Watt said he put the documents to Mr Bleich last night to highlight Australia’s duty of care for Mr Assange and to reveal the plan he believes the US has for him.

“I believe the Australian government has effectively abandoned Julian Assange,” he said.

“He has requested assistance from the Australian government to make a representation on his behalf to the Swedish government in particular, to ensure things like no further extraction.”

Senator Carr said it would be harder to extradite Assange from Sweden than the UK, because “the Swedes say it is our policy … that we never extradite someone on a matter to related to military or intelligence”.

“They just don’t do it,” he said.

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