Action to free assange is vital

Senator Rex Patrick

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today called on both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to commit to new diplomatic efforts to encourage the US government to drop its bid to extradite Australian publisher Julian Assange.

Senator Patrick further announced his intention to seek a Senate Committee inquiry into the failure of the Australian Government to provide proper support for Mr Assange through the long years of his detention and imprisonment.

“Three years on from his arrest for claimed espionage offences against the United States, the prosecution of Julian Assange poses a major threat to press freedom around the world,” Senator Patrick said.

“Whoever serves as Prime Minister following Australia’s federal election, Mr Morrison or Mr Albanese, they must urge US President Joe Biden to drop the espionage prosecution against Mr Assange.”

“If Mr Assange is deported from the United Kingdom and prosecuted in the United States for what amounts to investigative journalism, it will precisely send the wrong message at a time when freedom of the press is under threat in many countries around the world.”

“Dictators and authoritarians jailing journalists are already able to respond to their critics with an easy line: ‘What about Julian Assange?’ Freedom of the press will be further diminished if Mr Assange stands shackled in an American court before disappearing into the horror of a US maximum security prison.”

“Mr Assange’s case is now at a critical point. The next court hearing is expected on 20 April after which an extradition order will be sent to the British Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval. While Mr Assange has further limited opportunities for appeal, the Australian Government should heed the earlier concern expressed by Judge Vanessa Baraitser over Assange’s precarious health situation and ask the Home Secretary to deny the US extradition request.”

“Even more importantly, the Australian Prime Minister should pick up the phone to President Biden to press for a Presidential pardon for Mr Assange.”

“A high profile and controversial trial of an Australian journalist on espionage charges won’t help the very important relationship we have with the US. Indeed, it would be quite poisonous. A pardon would end the US prosecution and extradition process and Mr Assange would be free after three years of imprisonment and another eight years of confinement.”

“The performance of successive Australian Governments to date in failing to provide proper support for an Australian citizen and publisher reflects no credit on successive Foreign Ministers and the diplomats of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

“At no point have they been prepared to see this prosecution for what it always has been – a direct assault on the freedom of the press.”

“If re-elected to the Australian Senate, I will be seeking a comprehensive Senate Committee inquiry to thoroughly probe every aspect of the handling of Mr Assange’s case by Australian authorities. There must be accountability for this disgraceful failure to defend an Australian citizen, journalist and publisher.”

/Public Release.