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Australia, Media Demand End to US Persecution of Wikileaks Julian Assange

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US Persecution on Julian Assange

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he recently asked US President Joe Biden’s administration to end the persecution of Wikileaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange.

Albanese’s comments to Parliament on Wednesday appear to increase Australia’s diplomatic pressure on the US to drop spying charges against the 51-year-old resisting extradition from Britain.

“I have personally raised this with representatives of the United States government.” “My position is clear, and it has been made clear to the US administration: it is time to put this matter behind us,” Albanese told Parliament.

“This is a citizen of Australia,” Albanese added. “I don’t sympathize with Mr. Assange’s actions on various issues, but… you have to reach a point where you wonder what the point is of… continuing this legal action that could be caught up now for many years into the future?”

Albanese did not say whether he discussed Assange directly with Biden during a bilateral meeting two weeks ago on the sidelines of a Cambodian summit. However, Albanese stated that he had “recently in meetings” advocated for Assange.

Albanese compared Assange’s treatment to that of Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst who the prime minister said was “now able to participate freely in US society.”

Prosecutors in the United States allege that Assange assisted Manning in stealing classified diplomatic cables and military files, which Wikileaks later published, putting lives in danger. Manning’s 35-year sentence was commuted to seven years by then-President Barack Obama, allowing her release in 2017.

Albanese was responding to a question from independent lawmaker Monique Ryan about whether the Australian government would intervene to bring Assange home.

Julian Assange

Since its election in May, Albanese’s government has been cautious about prosecuting Julian Assange. Ministers’ criticisms have been limited to phrases like “dragged on for too long.”

When the British government agreed to extradite Assange in June, Albanese refused to publicly demand that the US drop the prosecution.

“Some people believe that putting things in capital letters and using an exclamation mark on Twitter makes them more important. “No, it doesn’t,” Albanese said at the time.

“I intend to lead a government that engages with our partners diplomatically and appropriately,” Albanese added.

Top media outlets demand US end the prosecution of Julian Assange

Five major news organizations issued an open letter on Monday condemning the US prosecution of Assange, who is wanted on 18 counts, including espionage.

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and press freedom,” The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pais editors and publishers wrote.

“Holding governments accountable is part of a free press’s core mission in a democracy.”

The letter arrives exactly 12 years after media outlets published revelations gleaned from Wikileaks’ release of over 250,000 confidential US military records and diplomatic cables, dubbed “Cablegate.”

Julian Assange

Chelsea Manning, a former US soldier, leaked the material to Wikileaks, revealing the inner workings of Washington’s diplomacy worldwide.

According to the letter, the documents revealed “international corruption, diplomatic scandals, and spy affairs.”

“Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate,’ the US government should drop its persecution of Julian Assange for publishing classified information.” “It is not a crime to publish,” the media outlets stated.

According to the 2019 US Justice Department indictment, Julian Assange’s leak caused “serious damage” to US national security and put US government sources in danger of physical harm or detention.

However, Julian Assange’s supporters claim that he is being prosecuted for exposing US wrongdoing, including that committed during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

He remains in British custody pending a US extradition request to face trial, and if found guilty, he could face up to 175 years in prison in the US. Assange has filed an appeal against the British government’s decision to extradite him.

The letter on Monday noted that when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden was vice president. The US administration delayed indicting Julian Assange because the journalists could have also faced prosecution.

That changed under President Donald Trump when the US Justice Department charged Assange with violating the 1917 Espionage Act, which, according to media outlets, “has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.”

The letter is the latest manifestation of public pressure on President Biden’s administration to drop Assange’s prosecution.

Julian Assange

Leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, urged Washington to drop the charges last year.

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in regularly – and that they must engage in to do the work that the public requires,” they wrote.

In July, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote a letter to Biden defending Assange and renewing an earlier offer of asylum to the Wikileaks founder.

“I left a letter to the president about Assange, explaining that he did not commit any serious crime, did not kill anyone, did not violate any human rights, that he exercised his freedom, and that arresting him would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression,” Lopez Obrador said.

Last week, Colombia’s left-wing President Gustavo Petro said he met with Wikileaks representatives and planned to ask Biden not to charge a journalist “just for telling the truth.”

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