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    A supporter of Julian Assange holds a poster after prosecutor Ingrid Isgren from Sweden arrived at Ecuador's embassy to interview him in London

    Govt, Public Opinion in Australia Split Toward Assange - Politician, Journalist

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    Roger Waters, 75, dubbed Julian Assange a "real hero" in a recent letter to Australia's Socialist Equality Party (SEP), while praising the Wikileaks founder for his work of revealing and disclosing controversial actions by the Western governments and politicians.

    In particular, Waters said Assange needs protection from "unwarranted and illegal attacks" from the Western countries. Pink Floyd's legendary founder has called to endorse the upcoming rallies in support of Julian Assange that will take place in March in the latter's home country of Australia.

    Assange, 47, has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom since 2012. The whistleblower has been fearing he could be extradited to the United States if he leaves the facility since WikiLeaks has published thousands of classified document allegedly leaked from US government agencies.

    Sputnik has discussed the issue with James Cogan, SEP national secretary; And with John Pilger, an Australian journalist and BAFTA award-winning documentary film maker.

    Sputnik: What is the likelihood of Australian authorities intervening in the crisis involving Julianne Assange?

    James Cogan: Successive Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal-National Party Coalition, have refused to take any meaningful steps to defend Julian Assange and oppose his extradition to the US.

    The Australian elite is completely committed to the US-Australia military and strategic alliance and is just as hostile to WikiLeaks as their American counterparts, due to its role in exposing great power crimes and intrigues.

    In 2010, the then Labor government denounced Assange and WikiLeaks for conducting "illegal activity" and attempted to find ways to prosecute Assange under Australian law-which it could not, because he had not committed any crime.

    In 2016, the Coalition government flatly rejected the ruling in support of Assange by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and instead declared that it had full confidence in the British and Swedish legal systems.

    As has been the case historically, the Australian government will only intervene to defend one of its citizens if it is either in the strategic interests of the US and Australia to do so, or if it comes under immense pressure from below within Australia--that is, if it is more fearful of a movement against the government than it is of causing frictions in its relationship with Washington.

    The Australian government did intervene in 2007 to have falsely accused "terrorist" David Hicks returned to Australia from the Guantanamo Bay prison. In 2015, it intervened to secure the return of journalist Peter Greste, who had been falsely accused and imprisoned in Egypt. This month, Australian authorities intervened with both Thailand and Bahrain to secure the return to Australia of Australian permanent resident and football player Hakeem al-Araibi from detention in Thailand and the prospect of extradition to Bahrain on fabricated allegations.

    In each case, there was a groundswell of public condemnation against the Australian government for not speaking out.

    The difference with Assange is that what once presented itself as the "liberal" or "democratic" wing of the Australian establishment — in the media, parliamentary parties, such as the Greens, and the trade unions — are supporting the US-Australia confrontational policy against China and oppose Assange for his public stance against US and Australian foreign policy, whether in Asia, the Ukraine, the Middle East or by exposing the Five Eyes network.

    There is an enormous disconnect between the official stance toward Assange and mass public opinion. The public support for Assange, however, finds no expression in either the media or the parliament. The silence will only be broken by the development of a completely new mass movement in the working class, in open opposition to the entire establishment, especially the Labor Party and the trade unions. That is what the SEP is fighting for.

    As to its impact, we base ourselves on the conception stated so simply by Leon Trotsky, the great Russian and international revolutionary, opponent of Stalinism and founder of our world party, the Fourth International: "Struggle will decide."

    Sputnik: In his letter, Roger Waters said that "until recently the Ecuadorian presidency was solid in its promise of asylum, but the new president of Ecuador is showing himself to be more susceptible to insidious US pressure." In your opinion, what will happen to Assange in the near future?

    James Cogan: The SEP considers it obvious that moves have been underway since 2016, by the US and other states, to pressure the Ecuadorian government to force Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, either due to a health crisis or via outright eviction.

    The greater Assange is isolated, the greater that danger becomes. The political and legal campaign that is being conducted in his defence is the only reason he has not already been forced out in our opinion.

    If he is forced out of the embassy, British authorities intend to detain him. The US authorities would then unveil charges against him and seek his extradition. Everything would then depend on both a legal fight in the British courts against extradition and the most determined campaign of protest, to mobilise the independent strength of the working class in Australia, Britain, the US and internationally, to demand that the false charges against him are dropped.

    Sputnik: How are you willing to help him?

    James Cogan: The SEP, as part of the International Committee of the Fourth International, has been raising since 2010, on the World Socialist Web Site, social media and public campaigns and meetings in Australia, that the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks poses immense dangers to freedom of speech, an independent and critical media and all democratic rights.

    We will never abandon the cause of Julian Assange--or cease exposing and denouncing all those who collaborate with his persecution--until his freedom is secured.

    John Pilger: There is no miscarriage of justice I have known as that of Julian Assange. There is no case that so vividly illustrates the current assault on freedom of speech, on true journalism, by governments with democratic pretensions as that of Julian Assange.  What happens to Julian touches us all, including the craven Vichy media.

    The freedom to which Julian has a right under international law would be his if only the government in his own country, Australia, exercised minimal, positive, even principled diplomacy. On 3 March, Australians who care about freedom will call on their government to honour basic justice and international law and bring Julian home.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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