Australian PM Anthony Albanese with US Secretary of state Antony Blinken

Australian Premier condemns US prosecution of Assange

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will continue to press Washington to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejecting all previous pleas from Canberra for the wellbeing of its citizen.

‘This has gone on for too long. Enough is enough,’ Albanese told reporters. ’We remain very firm in our view and in our representations to the American government and we will continue to do so.’

Albanese has made similar declarations before. He told Australia’s ABC broadcaster in May that the Assange case needed to be brought to a conclusion, and that his government was working through diplomatic channels to resolve the situation with Washington. He has not specified whether he wants the US to drop the case entirely or seek a plea bargain with the former WikiLeaks chief.

Blinken threw cold water on Albanese’s advocacy for Assange, who has been incarcerated in Britain’s Belmarsh prison for four years, over the weekend. Assange is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act and potentially a 175-year prison sentence. 

The charges against him stem from his publication of classified material obtained by whistle-blowers, including Pentagon documents detailing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables exposing the US’ efforts to – among other things – spy on its allies and influence foreign elections.

The Espionage Act has never before been used to prosecute someone who published – but did not steal – classified material. Assange and his supporters argue that WikiLeaks’ publication of this material is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, a view shared by former US president Barack Obama, whose Justice Department declined to press charges against the Australian as it concluded it had no legal grounds to do so.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has described the detention of Assange as an attack on democracy and freedom of the press. ‘I look with concern at the proposed extradition of journalist Julian Assange. Assange has done an important job to denounce the illegal actions of one state against another,’ Lula said in a tweet on Saturday.

‘It is important that we all mobilize in his defence,’ the Brazilian leader added, emphasizing that the prolonged detention of the world’s best-known journalist ‘goes against the defence of democracy and freedom of the press.’  Lula denounced Assange’s detention as an embarrassment and a crazy thing. 

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), next week’s appeal will be Assange’s last opportunity to fight extradition in the UK, unless he brings his case to the European Court of Human Rights. You can share this story on social media.

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