BBC producer says Assange 'ridiculous' over 'Zionist wife' claims

Julian Assange in Cambridge

Julian Assange in Cambridge

A BBC producer accused by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange of trying to influence his extradition hearing because he had a "Zionist wife" has said the claim was "absolutely ridiculous".

Last month Mr Assange, fighting extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual assault, told Agoravox, a French news site: "Our relationships [with UK media] are not that great, particularly with the BBC. They are going to broadcast a show…and try to influence the judges. We finally found out that the producer's wife for this show was part of the Zionist movement in London."

He was referring to the Panorama programme. Wikileaks: The Secret Story.

Its producer, Jim Booth, said this week: "I was the producer on the programme so he can only be talking about me. I have got no idea why he said that. My wife is not Jewish, has nothing to do with Zionism or the Jewish community.

"It's absolutely ridiculous and insulting for me as a producer. I do not set out with an agenda and he gave the sense there was a Jewish agenda.

"Assange is a pioneer and Wikileaks is a tremendous thing but I wish he had got his facts right."

He said his wife, Janet, who helps disabled pupils at a sixth form college in Lancashire, received a "friend" request on Facebook from an Asian man from Blackburn after Mr Assange's claims.

"I don't want the Asian community or Muslim extremists to think my wife is a Zionist," Mr Booth said. "It's dragged my wife, who has nothing to do with the BBC, or this debate or Zionism, into this strange world. It's below the belt."

Mr Assange, in the same interview, said: "At first we did not have many files on Israel and we were afraid of attacks from the east coast of the United States. "If we had published information on 'sensitive' countries from the outset, we would have suffered attacks that would have forced us to deviate from
our path."

He claimed Jews on the east coast were given Israeli passports "to strengthen their ties with their homeland.

Mr Assange allegedly accused
Israel of torture and suggested it had an unethical rule of law, in his address to students at a closed event in Cambridge this week.

Tuesday's rare public appearance at the Cambridge Union was fronted by eight security guards, who banned journalists, and any recording.

Student Andrew Griffin, who attended on behalf of the student newspaper, Varsity, said: "One student asked what he felt about operating within and outside the law.

"Assange said : 'The rule of law is a very important thing. But when it breaks down, then it is time to operate within a system of ethics.'

"He drew attention to Israel, whose law, he claimed, permitted the use of force during torture."

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 17 2011