Australia Urged to Intervene in Long-Running Wikileaks Extradition Case
June 21, 2022
Lawyers for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange are urging the Australian
government to do more to gain the release of the Queensland-born
activist. Assange is to be extradited from Britain to the United States
to face espionage charges, in a move approved by the British government
late last week.
To his supporters, Julian Assange is a hero who, among other things,
exposed U.S. wrongdoing in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They
insist his prosecution is politically motivated.
But officials in Washington have for years said the confidential U.S.
military records and diplomatic cables Assange’s Wikileaks website
released had violated U.S. espionage laws and put lives at risk.
The Australian-born activist is in a British prison awaiting extradition
to the United States, where he is wanted on 18 criminal charges,
including breaking spying laws.
Last Friday, British Interior Minister Priti Patel approved Assange’s
Assange’s legal team is urging the recently elected government in
Canberra to demand Assange’s release from prison. It is reported that
Australia is quietly lobbying for his release and has raised the case
with senior United States officials.
Greg Barns is a member of Assange’s Australian-based legal team. He told
the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Canberra had intervened to bring
home an Australian terrorism suspect from Guantanamo Bay and a
Melbourne-based academic recently detained in Iran.
is precedent for Australia doing this. We saw most famously the David
Hicks case back in, I think, 2004 when the [former Prime Minister John]
Howard government used its good offices with the Bush administration to
get David Hicks back to safety from Guantanamo Bay," said Barns. "We saw
it in Kylie Moore-Gilbert, for example. Simply because a case is before
other jurisdictions does not mean that Australia cannot get involved.”
In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Assange’s
case has “dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a
close.” She added that the Australian government could not “intervene in
the legal matters of another country.”
Since it was founded in 2006, Wikileaks has released hundreds of
thousands of secret classified files and diplomatic cables in what has
been described as the largest security breach of its kind.
Assange has been fighting extradition to the United States since June
2019 and has indicated he plans to appeal Britain’s expulsion order.