Senin, 04 Januari 2021

Julian Assange is 'free to return home' if his extradition is blocked, Scott Morrison says - SBS News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is free to return to Australia if the United States' extradition request is blocked by British courts.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser on Monday ruled the Australian activist and journalist should not be returned to the US to face charges relating to the release of 470,000 classified US military documents in 2010 - due to his deteriorating mental health and risk of suicide.

But the US Department of Justice has indicated it will seek to appeal the decision, which it described as "extremely" disappointing". An appeal must be lodged within 14 days.

Speaking to Melbourne's 3AW radio station on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said he had "noted" the decision overnight, which is subject to appeal.

"Assuming that it all turns out, he is like any other Australian, he is free to return home if he wished," he said.

"He is going through those processes, consular support has consistently been offered to Mr Assange."

The Australian government has made 19 offers of consular assistance to Assange since 2019, all of which have gone unanswered, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

"Australia is not a party to the case and will continue to respect the ongoing legal process, including the UK justice system’s consideration of applications for release, or any appeals," she added. 

The 49-year-old Australian citizen is facing 14 espionage charges in the US, which could result in 175 years in jail if he was convicted.

Supporters of Assange say the charges, which stem from WikiLeak's release of explosive classified information about US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, are an attack on freedom of speech and the press.

He spent a decade in Ecuador's London embassy, in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.

The union for Australian journalists - the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance - has called on the government to do more to ensure Assange's "safe passage to Australia".

"The case against Assange has always been politically motivated with the intent of curtailing free speech, criminalising journalism and sending a clear message to future whistleblowers and publishers that they too will be punished if they step out of line," MEAA federal president Marcus Strom said on Monday.

"The stories for which he was being prosecuted were published by WikiLeaks a decade ago and revealed war crimes and other shameful actions by the United States government. They were clearly in the public interest."

While Judge Baraitser ruled against extradition based on concerns for Assange's welfare, she agreed with the US government's claims that his conduct in releasing the documents went beyond that of a journalist or whistleblower.

"This was not a win from a free speech point of view in terms of her findings on the criminalisation of journalist conduct," Assange's Australian lawyer Jennifer Robinson told ABC News on Tuesday.

"But for her findings on his mental health state, any other journalist who doesn't have that particular medical condition and circumstance could have, in fact, been extradited in these circumstances. And that's a very dangerous precedent."

Ms Robinson said they would lodge an application for bail pending the appeal on Wednesday. 

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2021-01-04 23:55:55Z

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