Australian Prime Minister Refrains From Publicly Calling for Assange's Release
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday refrained from making a public appeal for the release of WikiLeaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange, following the UK's decision to extradite him to the US.
"I've made clear what my position is publicly. I made it clear last year. I stand by, I stand by my comments that I made then. But I'll make this point as well, that, you know, there are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, then that somehow makes it more important. It doesn't. I intend to lead a government that engages diplomatically and appropriately with our partners," the prime minister said at a press conference, answering the question whether he had spoken to US President Joe Biden on Assange's extradition from the UK to the US.
In December, Albanese said that Assange had already "paid a big price" for the publication of the information, and saw no reason to further pursue him.
Albanese was elected as a new Australian prime minister in May. Since then, Assange's relatives and supporters have expressed hope that the new government will make efforts to release its citizen from prison. Scott Morrison's government previously stated that it would not interfere in Assange's extradition to the US.
Assange is wanted by the US on espionage charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified documents that shed light on war crimes committed by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The WikiLeaks founder has been on remand at the Belmarsh maximum-security prison in southeast London since October 2020, after serving an 11-month sentence for breaking bail conditions. In 2012, instead of appearing in court as his bail conditions demanded, Assange sought shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remained until 2019 over concerns that he might otherwise end up extradited to the US.
Last Friday, WikiLeaks reported that UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange's extradition to the US, where he faces up to 175 years in prison. The organization called the decision a "dark day" for press freedom and for the UK democracy, adding that the decision will be appealed. Several countries, including Russia and China, and rights activists have condemned the decision.