Over 60 Australian Federal parliamentarians have expressed their support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He has been in a United Kingdom jail since 2019, fighting against his extradition to the United States. He had previously spent seven years taking refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy. He faces charges in the U.S. for conspiracy and espionage.
As part of this initiative, six parliamentarians visited Washington, D.C., the week of September 27 to lobby for his release. Democracy Now reported on developments involving his home country, Australia:
A delegation of Australian lawmakers has arrived in Washington, D.C., to urge the Biden administration to halt its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange. More than 60 members of Australia’s Parliament from across the political spectrum have called for Assange’s release.
In an interview with Democracy Now, the Greens’ Senator Peter Whish-Wilson explained:
The primary aim for our delegation, and it is cross-party, is to let Americans know, and particularly those in power, that Australians feel very strongly about this issue. We feel like Julian Assange has suffered enough. He’s been incarcerated now, in one form or another, for nearly a decade for simply publishing the truth. He is an Australian citizen. He won the highest award for journalism in Australia.
This is the full video interview:
The delegation has members from across the political spectrum, including the major parties and an independent. Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is among them. His National Party is quite conservative, with its electorates composed of rural farming and mining communities. The group includes two Greens senators as well as a Liberal and a Labor member.
The Columbia Journalism Review presented some background of the visit:
Members of the delegation have different reasons for wanting the US to drop the charges against Assange, from characterizing him as a brave truth-teller to the broader fear, stressed by Joyce, that allowing the extradition of someone who hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in their country of citizenship would set a precedent that China, among other countries, might exploit.
Brazil’s President Lula also called for Julian’s release in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Lula argued:
Preserving press freedom is essential. A journalist, like Julian Assange, cannot be punished [for] informing society in a transparent and legitimate way.
Colombia's President Gustavo Petro also offered his support:
He's a journalist, period. And what he did was the work of a journalist, period. It's the greatest mockery of freedom of press.
Progressive International posted this YouTube short on the subject:
Investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi has regularly covered Wikileaks’ release of secret documents. She attacked European leaders for their silence about Assange's imprisonment on Mastodon:
Controversial American comedian and political commentator Lee Camp called for protests about Assange’s treatment and its implications for media freedom:
But not everyone on social media is a fan of Julain Assange. He is blamed by some for aiding Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race. Glaswegian Linda Stansbury posted on X (formerly Twitter):
Strange you cite a threat to democracy in the Julian Assange case. It seems Assange is rather selective with the information he deems should be more transparent, such as the release of documents prior to the 2016 election which arguably helped swing the result against Clinton!
— Linda Stansbury 🇺🇦 🏴🌻🌻🌻 (@LStansbury) September 25, 2023
On the other hand, Australian journalist Peter Cronau expressed strong support for Assange:
Setting a precedent of silencing journalists has been the US's goal all along.
— Peter Cronau (@PeterCronau) September 21, 2023
The delegation in Washington has met members of Congress and Department of Justice officials, including controversial member of the House of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, who called for the charges to be dropped.
Binoy Kampmark, a university lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT, stood as a Wikileaks Party candidate for the Australian Senate in 2013. He posted his take on the visit at the Australian Independent Media Network:
These opinions, consistent and venerably solid, have rarely swayed the mad hatters at the Justice Department who continue to operate within the same church consensus regarding Assange as an aberration and threat to US security. And they can rely, ultimately, on the calculus of attrition that assumes allies of Washington will eventually belt up, even if they grumble.
Like Binoy Kampmark, many doubt whether the latest efforts will have any impact on the U.S. government. Reuters’ report on the visit concluded:
Support for Assange among U.S. policymakers remains low.
If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum-security prison.