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Australian MPs urge UK government to stop Julian Assange’s US extradition


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A group of Australian lawmakers wrote a letter to the U.K. government pleading with it to make an independent assessment of whether the safety and well-being of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be ensured if he is extradited to the U.S. to face charges for publishing classified military cables.

The parliamentary letter to U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly is signed by the co-convenors of the Australian Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group: Members of Parliament Andrew Wilkie, Independent; Bridget Archer, Liberal; Josh Wilson, Labor, and Sen. David Shoebridge, Greens.

The letter cited the 2023 U.K. Supreme Court decision in AAA v Secretary of State for the Home Department, which found that courts in the U.K. cannot solely rely on third-party assurances by foreign governments and must make independent assessments of the risk of persecution to people before an order is made to remove them from the U.K.

“This reasoning clearly has direct relevance to the extradition proceedings involving Julian Assange and the joint decision of Lord Justices Burnett and Holroyde in USA v Assange,” the letter reads. “In that case their Lordships expressly relied on the ‘assurances’ of the United States as to Mr. Assange’s safety and welfare should he be extradited to the United States for imprisonment and trial. These assurances were not tested, nor was there any evidence of independent assessment as to the basis on which they could be given and relied upon.”

UK HIGH COURT SETS DATE FOR JULIAN ASSANGE’S FINAL APPEAL CHALLENGING US EXTRADITION

Assange

A group of Australian lawmakers wrote a letter to U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly urging him to halt WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. (Getty)

Assange is facing 17 charges by the U.S. government for allegedly receiving, possessing and communicating classified information to the public under the Espionage Act, and one charge alleging conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. His possible final legal challenge to block his extradition from Britain to the U.S. will be held Feb. 20 and 21 at the High Court in London.

If he is extradited to the U.S. after exhausting all his legal appeals, Assange would face trial in Alexandria, Virginia, and could be sentenced to up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison.

“This is literally a do-or-die scenario for Julian,” Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, told Fox News Digital. “If he loses at the U.K. courts next month, he could be extradited to the USA within 24 hours. [Expert] witness testimony and a U.K. magistrate have both found that would ultimately lead to his death. This prosecution isn’t about justice, it’s not about protecting U.S. interest, it’s obvious to everyone that Julian’s persecution is a sick revenge plot by the people whose criminal behavior his work exposed. It’s time for cooler heads to prevail and put an end to this disastrous endeavor.”

SQUAD AND MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE JOIN 16 LAWMAKERS CALLING ON BIDEN TO FREE JULIAN ASSANGE

Assange’s lawyer in the U.K., Jennifer Robinson, has previously said she fears he “would not survive if extradited to the U.S.”

The Australian journalist has been held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since he was removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, 2019, for breaching bail conditions. He had sought asylum at the embassy since 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden over allegations he raped two women because Sweden would not provide assurances it would protect him from extradition to the U.S. The investigations into the sexual assault allegations were eventually dropped.

“Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen who has been in HM Prison Belmarsh since April 2019. He has significant health issues, exacerbated to a dangerous degree by his prolonged incarceration, that are of very real concern to us as his elected representatives,” the Australian lawmakers wrote.

British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell told Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio on Tuesday that “all parties would like to see a resolution.” 

“We welcome this statement from the High Commissioner because it is exactly what the letter from Australian MPs to Home Secretary James Cleverly is asking him to do,” Greg Barns SC, adviser to the Australian Assange Campaign, told Fox News Digital. “We urge the UK government to assist with that resolution by working with the Australian and US governments immediately to end the case against Julian Assange.”

BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION CALLS ON US OFFICIALS TO DROP CHARGES AGAINST ASSANGE

U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly

The parliamentary letter to U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly is signed by the co-convenors of the Australian Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group. (Getty)

The Trump administration brought the charges against Assange over WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of cables leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning detailing war crimes committed by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp. The materials also exposed instances of the CIA engaging in torture and rendition.

WikiLeaks’ “Collateral Murder” video showing the U.S. military gunning down civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, was also published 14 years ago.

The parliamentary letter comes after a cross-party delegation of Australian lawmakers visited Washington, D.C., last year and met with U.S. officials, members of Congress and civil rights groups to demand the charges against Assange be dropped. Multiple bipartisan efforts were also made last year by U.S. lawmakers demanding Assange’s freedom.

JULIAN ASSANGE SUPPORTERS DEMAND CHARGES BE DROPPED IN VIGIL OUTSIDE MERRICK GARLAND’S HOME

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also repeatedly called on the U.S. in the last year to end the prosecution of Assange.

“Both the Australian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have stated publicly that Mr. Assange’s case has gone on for too long,” the parliamentary letter reads. “This is a position with which we wholeheartedly concur.”

No publisher had been charged under the Espionage Act until Assange, and many press freedom groups have said his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent intended to criminalize journalism. U.S. prosecutors and critics of Assange have argued WikiLeaks’ publication of classified material put the lives of U.S. allies at risk, but there is no evidence that publishing the documents put anyone in danger.

The editors and publishers of the U.S. and European outlets that worked with Assange on the publication of excerpts from more than 250,000 documents he obtained in the Cablegate leak — The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País  — wrote an open letter in 2022 calling for the U.S. to drop the charges against Assange.

The Obama administration decided not to indict Assange in 2013 over WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of the classified documents because it would have had to also indict journalists from major news outlets who published the same materials. Former President Obama also commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence for violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses to seven years in January 2017. Manning, who had been imprisoned since 2010, was released later that year.

AUSTRALIAN DELEGATION MEETS WITH US OFFICIALS, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO DEMAND JULIAN ASSANGE’S FREEDOM

Julian Assange sign

Julian Assange could be sentenced to up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison. (Fox News Digital/Landon Mion)

Former President Trump’s Justice Department later moved to indict Assange under the Espionage Act and the Biden administration has continued to pursue his prosecution.

“We are deeply concerned that the legal proceedings involving Mr. Assange will now continue, first in the United Kingdom and then in the United States, if extradition is ordered and consented to by you,” the letter to the U.K. Home Secretary reads. “This would add yet more years to Mr. Assange’s detention and further imperil his health.”

“To this end we are requesting that you undertake an urgent, thorough and independent assessment of the risks to Mr. Assange’s health and welfare in the event he is extradited to the United States,” it continues. “Consistent with the decision in AAA, it appears to us that such independent investigation should include a close review of the risks to Mr. Assange’s health, life and wellbeing through prolonged detention in one or more high security U.S. detention facilities.”

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Under the Trump administration, the CIA allegedly had plans to kill Assange over the publication of sensitive agency hacking tools known as “Vault 7,” which the agency said represented “the largest data loss in CIA history,” Yahoo reported in 2021. The agency was accused of having discussions “at the highest levels” of the administration about plans to assassinate Assange in London and allegedly acted upon orders from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo to draw up kill “sketches” and “options.”

The CIA also had advanced plans to kidnap and rendition Assange, and had made a political decision to charge him, according to the Yahoo report.

WikiLeaks also published internal communications in 2016 between the Democratic National Committee and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign that revealed the DNC’s attempts to boost Clinton in that year’s Democratic primary.

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