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Julian Assange: Australia wants WikiLeaks founder back home

February 15, 2024

Following years of legal battles against Julian Assange, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says that "enough is enough." The WikiLeaks founder is facing extradition to the US from the UK.

An activist holds a Julian Assange banner portrait during a rally in Melbourne, Australia
Assange's arrest and extradition have sparked worldwide protestsImage: Alexander Bogatyrev/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday called for the release of Julian Assange of legal pursuit by US and UK authorities.

The 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder, who is an Australian citizen, has been trapped in legal limbo for years after releasing a raft of top secret US documents on war in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010. He is currently being held in London but is facing extradition to the US on charges of espionage.

"People will have a range of views about Mr. Assange's conduct," Albanese told parliament.

"But regardless of where people stand, this thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely."

Australian parliament calls for Assange to be returned home

The WikiLeaks founder will head to the UK's High Court of Justice next week in an attempt to appeal his extradition.

On Wednesday, the Australian parliament passed a motion calling for Assange to be returned to his home country. The motion had been put forward by independent Australian lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and supported by the prime minister.

The motion called on the US and UK to bring the "matter to a close so that Mr. Assange can return home to his family in Australia."

Independent member of parliament Andrew Wilkie, left, and Julian Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton, right, speak to the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, February 15, 2024
Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton (right) welcomed the motion put forward by lawmaker Andrew Wilkie (left)Image: Mick Tsikas/AAP Image/AP/picture alliance

Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton welcomed the motion which came "at a crucial time," saying that the free speech activist could be extradited to the US as soon as next week.

"That means all the ties to his family, his lifeline that are keeping him alive inside that prison will be cut off and he'll be lost into a horrific prison system in the United States," Shipton said.

Why does the US want to extradite Julian Assange?

Assange is accused of publishing around 700,000 classified documents, starting in 2010, that shed a light on the US secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Australian sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he stayed for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault which were later dropped.

He was eventually kicked out of the embassy and was arrested; he has been held in London's high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019.

US prosecutors have said Assange helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal and leak the classified diplomatic and military documents.

Manning was sentenced to 35-years in prison, but her sentence was commuted to just seven by former President Barack Obama, allowing her to be released in 2017. She was however rearrested in 2019 and stayed behind bars for another year for her refusal to testify in a case involving Julian Assange.

ab/dj (AFP, AP)