Julian Assange: Australian politicians call for release of WikiLeaks founder

Julian Assange
Image caption,Julian Assange has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019

Australia’s parliament has passed a motion calling on the US and UK to release Julian Assange, ahead of a crucial legal hearing.

Mr Assange will appear in front of the UK’s High Court next week for his final appeal against US extradition.

The Australian citizen, currently in London’s Belmarsh Prison, is wanted in the US on espionage charges and faces up to 175 years in prison.

Australian MPs voted 86-42 that Mr Assange should be allowed to come home.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who supported the motion, has called for the Assange case to come to a “conclusion” since taking office in 2022.

He raised the matter directly with US President Joe Biden during a state visit in October.

It followed a cross-party delegation of Australian MPs travelling to Washington to lobby US lawmakers for Mr Assange’s freedom.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted for publishing thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011, which American authorities say broke the law and endangered lives.

He has long argued that the case against him is politically motivated. His legal team say he is at risk of taking his own life if he is sent to the US.

In 2021, a UK judge blocked Mr Assange’s extradition, citing concerns for his mental health.

The High Court subsequently reversed that decision on the basis that the US had proven that Mr Assange would be safely cared for. In 2022, then Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the US extradition request – triggering his renewed legal appeal.

Mr Assange’s family have continued to call on the Australian government to do more to secure his release, warning that the 52-year-old could “disappear” into the US justice system for decades if handed over.

Australia’s Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said he had raised the matter with his US counterpart Merrick Garland at a meeting in Washington last month.

“This was a private discussion, however this government’s position on Mr Assange is very clear, and has not changed. It is time this matter is brought to an end,” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.

Mr Assange has been in the high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. He had previously spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London while trying to seek asylum in the South American country. https://darsalas.com/

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