A motley group of Australian federal politicians representing various political affiliations has travelled to Washington, D.C., to collectively urge the U.S. government to cease its persistent efforts to prosecute Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
The six Australian politicians, including former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Labor MP Tony Zappia, “teal” Independent Monique Ryan, Liberal Senator Alex Antic, as well as two senators from the Greens party, Peter Whish-Wilson and David Shoebridge, have flown to the capital of the United States.
They have convened in Washington to advocate for the abandonment of extradition proceedings against Mr. Assange.
They will meet with Democrat Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Thursday to voice the concerns of the coalition of 64 federal politicians pushing for Mr. Assange’s release.
“Nine out of 10 Australians … believe Julian should come home. There are many, many, many of us who agree with that and we’re here in Washington, D.C., to get that message conveyed to the American government,” Senator Antic told the press in Washington.
Mr. Assange’s supporters argue that he is being persecuted for his work as a journalist and that the charges against him are an attack on press freedom.
They also argue that the U.S. government is seeking to extradite Mr. Assange in order to silence him and prevent him from publishing further classified information.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said he believes Mr. Assange has been overly punished.
“We have something here in the United States called the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
“If he were convicted of something or pled guilty, [the time he served] should be more than enough.”
64 Parliamentarians Call for Assange’s Release
The coalition of parliamentarians who have endorsed the diplomatic trip to lobby for Mr. Assange’s freedom called for the resolute ending of his prosecution and incarceration by the United States.
“We ask Congresspeople, members of the press, and other relevant civil society stakeholders in the United States to speak up now in supporting an end to the prosecution and detention of Julian Assange,” they said.
The letter advocates for what it believes is the right and most appropriate course of action—for the United States Department of Justice to halt its pursuit and prosecution of Julian Assange.
Alternatively, it says simply abandoning the extradition proceedings would be a rational, fair, and compassionate decision, allowing Mr. Assange to finally regain his freedom after an extended and arduous period of high-security detention.
The letter asserts that it is long overdue for this matter to be resolved and for the WikiLeaks founder to be allowed to return home.
Why the US Government Seeks Assange’s Extradition
The United States has sought Assange’s extradition to face 17 espionage charges and a computer hacking charge relating to WikiLeaks’ release of classified military documents related to the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, as well as diplomatic documents, in 2010 and 2011.
The U.S. government alleges that Mr. Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to hack into a government computer system and obtain the classified documents. The U.S. government also alleges that he published the classified documents knowing that they would harm national security.
From 2012 to 2019, Mr. Assange resided within the confines of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. However, in 2019, Ecuador revoked his asylum protections, leading to his subsequent arrest by British authorities.
It is important to note that Assange has not yet been convicted of any crimes. He is currently awaiting trial in the United Kingdom and is incarcerated in London’s Belmarsh prison.
Mr. Assange faces up to 175 years behind bars if convicted.