A group of journalists and lawyers have sued the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its former director, Mike Pompeo, over allegations that they were placed under surveillance when they met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London.

The lawsuit, filed in a New York District Court on Monday, alleges that CIA under Pompeo violated the privacy rights of the American journalists and lawyers by spying on them. The plaintiffs include journalists Charles Glass and John Goetz and attorneys Margaret Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, who have represented Assange.

“The United States Constitution shields American citizens from US government overreach even when the activities take place in a foreign embassy in a foreign country,” said Richard Roth, the main lawyer representing the group.

The CIA, which declined to comment on the lawsuit, is prohibited from collecting intelligence on US citizens. Roth said the alleged spying would mean that Assange’s right to a fair trial had been “tainted, if not destroyed.”

“There should be sanctions, even up to dismissal of those charges, or withdrawal of an extradition request in response to these blatantly unconstitutional activities,” Roth said.

The WikiLeaks co-founder has appealed the UK Home Office’s decision to extradite him back to the US on espionage charges.

Assange was dragged out of Ecuador’s embassy building in London in 2019, where he took refuge for more than seven years.​​​​​​​