Foreign Policy

published : 2023-09-09

Delegation of Australian lawmakers to visit US to push for Julian Assange's release

Julian Assange could face up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison if extradited to the US

Australian lawmakers Barnaby Joyce and Tony Zapia speaking to the media at Parliament House (taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

A high-profile delegation of Australian lawmakers, including former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and members from various political parties, will travel to Washington, D.C., later this month to advocate for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange is accused of publishing classified U.S. military documents leaked by a whistleblower, and if extradited to the U.S., he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years in a high-security prison.

The Australian lawmakers will meet with key officials from the House, Senate, State Department, and Justice Department to urge them to drop the prosecution against Assange.

This delegation aims to convey a powerful message from one of the U.S.'s closest allies, highlighting the detrimental impact of pursuing Assange's imprisonment on the historic friendship between the two nations.

Gabriel Shipton, Assange's brother, stated that even Australians who may not support Assange's actions believe that he has already suffered enough and should be released.

Julian Assange addressing a crowd during a public rally for press freedom (taken with Nikon D850)

The charges against Assange relate to WikiLeaks' 2010 publication of cables detailing war crimes, instances of torture, and rendition carried out by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Notably, WikiLeaks also released the infamous 'Collateral Murder' video, which exposed the U.S. military shooting civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Iraq.

Critics of Assange's prosecution, such as human rights lawyer Greg Barns and Ben Wizner from the ACLU, argue that his actions served the public interest by informing the world and inspiring positive change.

While the Obama administration initially refrained from indicting Assange to avoid implicating major news outlets that collaborated with him, the Trump administration later pursued charges under the Espionage Act.

Despite Julian Assange's deteriorating health during his confinement at London's high-security Belmarsh Prison, efforts to secure his release have garnered significant support from various quarters.

Protesters holding signs demanding the release of Julian Assange outside Belmarsh Prison (taken with Sony Alpha a7 III)

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed his government's concern about the prolonged nature of Assange's case and has consistently called for his incarceration to end.

The Australian lawmakers will not only engage with U.S. officials but also meet with civil rights groups like the ACLU, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

This multi-faceted approach seeks to highlight the potential threat to investigative journalism worldwide if Assange is extradited and convicted for publishing truthful information.

Presidential candidates, including Marianne Williamson, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Vivek Ramaswamy, have voiced support for Assange and pledged to drop charges against him if elected.

The fate of Julian Assange remains uncertain, but this renewed push for his release serves as a testimony to the fight for justice, freedom of the press, and the powerful ripple effects it could have on the world.