Australian Politicians Call for Release of WikiLeaks Founder

Australian parliament has passed a motion urging the United States and the United Kingdom to free Julian Assange before a crucial court decision.

Julian Assange is scheduled to appear before the UK’s High Court for his final appeal against US extradition.

Facing espionage charges in the United States, Mr. Assange, an Australian national detained at Belmarsh Prison in London, could be sentenced to a maximum of 175 years.

The vote by Australian lawmakers ended with 86 in favour and 42 against, advocating for Mr. Assange’s return to Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who supported the proposal, has been vocal about resolving the Assange case since his 2022 election victory. He raised the issue with US President Joe Biden during an official visit in October.

This initiative was preceded by a bipartisan delegation of Australian parliamentarians visiting Washington to advocate for Mr. Assange’s release to US officials.

Mr. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is accused by the US of releasing a huge amount of secret files in 2010 and 2011, actions the US claims were illegal and put lives at risk.

Mr. Assange and his defense argue that the charges are the result of a political motive. His legal team warns that Mr. Assange might end his own life if extradited to the US.

In 2021, a British judge ruled against extraditing Mr. Assange due to mental health concerns. However, the High Court later overturned this decision, persuaded by US assurances of his well-being in custody.

In 2022, then Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the extradition to the US, prompting another round of legal challenges from Assange.

Mr. Assange’s family continues to call on the Australian government for more efforts to secure his freedom, cautioning that he could be lost in the US legal system for many years.

Mark Dreyfus, Australia’s Attorney General, disclosed that he discussed Mr. Assange’s case with US Attorney General Merrick Garland in Washington recently.

“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.

Since 2019, Mr. Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison. Prior to this, he spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum to avoid extradition.