DELEGATION OF AUSTRALIAN LAWMAKERS URGES U.S. TO DROP CHARGES AGAINST JULIAN ASSANGE
Australian Lawmakers Meet with U.S. Officials to Advocate for Assange’s Release
A cross-party delegation of Australian politicians traveled to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to meet with U.S. officials, members of Congress, and civil rights groups. The purpose of their visit was to urge the U.S. government to abandon efforts to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange is accused of publishing classified U.S. military documents.
The delegation of Australian lawmakers included former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce, Labor Party member of parliament Tony Zappia, Independent member of parliament Monique Ryan, Liberal Party Sen. Alex Antic, and Greens Party Sens. Peter Whish-Wilson and David Shoebridge. Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, also joined the delegation in Washington for their meetings with U.S. officials.
Calls for Dropping Charges against Assange
The delegation brought a letter signed by more than 60 members of parliament, urging the U.S. to drop the charges against Assange. Currently fighting against extradition to the U.S., Assange could potentially face up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison. He is facing 17 charges, including allegations of receiving, possessing, and communicating classified information, as well as a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. If extradited, he would face trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
Optimism despite Challenges
Speaking at a press conference outside the Justice Department on Wednesday evening, members of the delegation expressed optimism that a resolution could be reached regarding Assange’s freedom. However, they remain committed to continuing their pressure on the U.S. until the prosecution comes to a conclusion.
Barnaby Joyce emphasized that their intention was not to start a confrontation but rather to present their case and lobby for a desired outcome. He highlighted that the delegation, representing diverse political affiliations, had come to a unifying conclusion after 11 years — enough is enough.
Assange’s Detention and Background
Julian Assange has been held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since his removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, 2019, for breaching bail conditions. Prior to seeking asylum at the embassy, Assange faced allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. The investigations into the assault were eventually dropped, but he remained in the embassy to avoid extradition to the U.S., fearing he would not receive adequate protection.
Australian Prime Minister Advocates for Assange
Given the upcoming meeting between President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in October, the delegation expected Assange’s case to be part of the discussion. Albanese has consistently called for an end to the U.S. prosecution of the Australian journalist. Meanwhile, polling data revealed that nearly 90% of Australians believe the charges against Assange should be dropped.
Controversial Prosecution and Media Impact
The delegation highlighted the exceptional nature of Assange’s prosecution. They emphasized that he is the only journalist facing charges for publishing material that major news outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and Le Monde, also published. In fact, editors and publishers of these outlets previously wrote an open letter urging the U.S. to drop the charges against Assange.
The charges against Assange are a result of his publication of classified documents leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010. These publications exposed alleged war crimes, instances of CIA activity, and other sensitive information. Assange’s supporters argue that he should be protected as a journalist, recognizing the impact his work has had on various political and social justice movements.
Past Administration Efforts and Current Situation
The Obama administration chose not to indict Assange in relation to the publication of the leaked documents in 2010, as they would have had to indict numerous journalists from major news outlets. However, the Trump administration’s Justice Department later initiated the indictment process under the Espionage Act, and the Biden administration has continued the efforts to prosecute Assange.
Assange’s case has garnered significant attention and support from around the world, transcending political boundaries. Australian lawmakers view his situation as an issue of conviction, urging the U.S. for mutual respect and listening to the concerns of their closest ally. They believe that Assange has already paid a heavy price for his actions.
Overall, the delegation of Australian lawmakers is striving to secure Assange’s freedom, with hopes of positive outcomes from their meetings in Washington. They consider it crucial to make people aware of the nature of the charges against Assange and the sentiments of the Australian public.