PM Scott Morrison Urged to End ‘Lunacy’, Push For Release of Australian Citizen Julian Assange
09:13 GMT 11.12.2021 (Updated: 09:21 GMT 11.12.2021)
A London court ruled on 10 December in favour of a US government appeal to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, overruling an earlier decision by a lower court to block the extradition citing the Australian journalist’s mental status and fears that he may attempt to take his own life in a US prison.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is being urged by MPs to intervene in the case of WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange
after the London High Court ruled on 10 December that the Australian citizen can be extradited to the US.
Assange faces 17 espionage charges, and one charge of the misuse of a computer over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of military and diplomatic files, including videos exposing US war crimes in Iraq. If convicted, the journalist and activist would face up to 175 years in prison.
“The prime minister must get Assange home,” Adam Bandt, leader of the Australian Greens and federal MP for Melbourne was cited as saying by The Guardian. “An Australian citizen is being prosecuted for publishing details of war crimes, yet our government sits on its hands and does nothing.”
Bandt slammed the ruling as a “critical moment in the fight against suppression of press freedom”.
“Assange’s persecution and our government’s inaction are chilling, and should worry everyone who cares about a free press or thinks that governments should protect their citizens,” he said.
Independent Australian MP Andrew Wilkie also called on Morrison to “end this lunacy”.
He deplored the fact that Assange, instead of looking forward to spending Christmas with his sons and fiancée, Stella Moris, was ”facing a 175-year jail sentence and the very real possibility of living out his final days behind bars.”
The independent MP railed against further proof that the UK is “a lackey of the United States and that Australia is delighted to go along for the ride.”
“Journalism is not a crime,” argued Wilkie.
Australian Greens senator Janet Rice also criticised the decision. “Foreign Minister Marise Payne must urgently speak to the US and tell them to drop these absurd charges and end Assange’s torture.”
Penny Wong, Senate leader of the Australian Labour Party (ALP), was cited by the outlet as saying:
“… Labor believes this has now dragged on for too long and has pressed the Morrison government to do what it can encourage the US government to bring this matter to a close. Labor expects the Australian government to provide appropriate consular support to Mr Assange, as is his right as an Australian citizen.”
Previously, Scott Morrison sparred verbally with Assange supporter, actress Pamela Anderson after her appearance on 60 Minutes Australia in December 2018.
Anderson had urged Morrison to “defend your friend, get Julian his passport back and take him back to Australia and be proud of him, and throw him a parade when he gets home”.
When asked on commercial radio if he would follow Anderson's advice Morrison said
"Well no, first of all, but next, I've had plenty of mates who've asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson."
Pamela Anderson lashed out at the Australian Prime Minister via an open letter, saying he "trivialised" the suffering of Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and made "lewd" comments about her.
Ahead of the US appeal hearing on the extradition
of Julian Assange, Amnesty International had written to both Prime Scott Morrison and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, urging
the Australian Government to enter into a dialogue with Washington and demand that all charges against Assange be dropped.
It underscored the importance of protecting journalists and publishers who “play such a crucial role in not only informing our public, but ensuring that governments are held accountable”.
Ruling on Assange Extradition
On 10 December, the London Administrative Court upheld
the US' appeal for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition, dismissing concerns raised about the journalist's health. In January a UK court had ruled Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide. However, after a two-day appeal hearing, the high court on Friday sided with the US.
The decision has been broadly condemned
by independent journalists, civil liberties and human rights groups around the world. The whistleblower is wanted by the United States on espionage charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified documents shedding light on war crimes committed by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. If put on trial and convicted in the US, the Australian journalist, 50, faces up to 175 years in prison.
11 December 2021, 06:15 GMT
Assange has been on remand at the Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London since October 2020, since serving an 11-month sentence for breach of bail after staying in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for seven years.
Assange had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and which were eventually dropped. Julian Assange’s lawyers have said they intend to challenge the current ruling
with another appeal, this time in the UK’s supreme court.