SYDNEY, March 15, 2011 (AFP) - Australia on Tuesday denied passing on information about Wikileaks staff to foreign powers after its outspoken founder Julian Assange confronted the country's prime minister over the claim.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd dismissed Assange's allegation, which he made directly to Gillard during a live television show late Monday in which he suggested she be charged with treason.
"I am not aware of seeing any such material myself," Rudd told public broadcaster ABC on Tuesday.
Assange surprised Gillard as she appeared on a TV question and answer show during which Australians submitted questions by video, by appearing on screen to flail her for allegedly informing on staff of his whistleblower website.
"When will you come clean about precisely what information you have supplied to foreign powers about Australian citizens working or affiliated with WikiLeaks?" asked Assange, who is under house arrest in Britain.
Wearing a dark suit and tie, Assange asked whether Gillard should be charged with "treason" for her government's alleged actions against Australian citizens.
Gillard denied any knowledge of her government passing data on Wikileaks employees to foreign powers.
"I honestly don't know what he is talking about. I don't know anything about exchanging information about people who work for WikiLeaks. To my knowledge, it hasn't happened," she said.
Assange, an Australian, has slammed Gillard and her government for not doing enough to protect him from a US investigation over the leaking of thousands of secret military reports and diplomatic cables to his whistleblowing website.
The 39-year-old former computer hacker is awaiting a British appeal hearing on whether he can be extradited over allegations of sexual assault against two women after a London court last month ruled he could be sent to Sweden.
But he has said he fears extradition to Sweden would be a precursor to being handed over to US authorities investigating the embarrassing leaks of US diplomatic cables.
|Code Pink for Peace demonstrator Jay Marx stands in front of the U.S. State Department to protest the resignation of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and the detention of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning March 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. AFP|