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Time for Julian Assange to come home, says Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

PM Albanese at Parliament House, Canberra. Photo: Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has advocated for the return of Julian Assange to Australia, as the former Queenslander faces court in the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has advocated for the return of Julian Assange to Australia, as the former Queenslander faces court in the United Kingdom.

The 52-year-old Australian did not attend the UK High Court due to illness this week, in his most recent appearance with the United Kingdom’s legal system.

Assange, originally from Townsville, is currently appealing extradition to the United States of America, in opposition to more than 18 charges US prosecutors are likely to bring against him for WikiLeaks’ vast release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

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The WikiLeaks site made international headlines in 2007 when it published classified footage from an American Apache attack helicopter in Baghdad, the videography showed the helicopter incorrectly identifying two journalists carrying cameras as combatants with weapons before engaging 11 civilians and a vehicle carrying children.

It’s argued by the US that Assange published files, footage and sources’ names, and in doing so, risked the lives of US intelligence agents and assets. If extradited, Assange could face offences similar to those of former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who leaked documents to WikiLeaks.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, speaking to ABC Sydney on 21 February, said the Australian government is communicating with the US administration on the matter.

“I have raised at the highest levels with the United States and the United Kingdom, Mr Assange’s case,” he said.

“I have put the view very clearly, privately, as I have publicly, that enough is enough. It’s time Julian Assange was brought home.

“I’ve engaged with his legal team on a regular basis as well, on a strategy to try to get through this and come out the other side in Mr Assange’s interest.

“We’re engaging diplomatically to try to achieve an outcome rather than try to achieve a headline. So, I don’t talk about the private conversations that I have with other leaders in person. I can just confirm that I certainly have raised it because that has been the subject of discussion, including with President Biden when we were there.

“It’s important that Australian citizens be looked after. If you look at our record, whether it’s Cheng Lei in China, Sean Turnell in Myanmar, and other cases from Vietnam. We have, since I’ve been prime minister, been very successful at making representations on behalf of Australians.”

Assange had previously been seeking sanctuary at the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June 2012, he was removed from the site by British police in April 2019 and transferred to London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison.

The Australian Parliament, with the support of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, voted overwhelmingly earlier this month in support of a motion calling for an end to Assange’s prosecution and for him to return home to Australia. The motion was introduced by Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie and passed with a tally of 86 votes to 42, with MPs across the political spectrum signing on in support.

“The advocacy that we have made on behalf of Julian Assange is, what anyone thinks about what Julian Assange has done in the past, his situation needs to be brought to a resolution. That’s really the point here,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, speaking to an ABC Breakfast television interview on 21 February.

“You can’t have somebody who’s indefinitely being incarcerated. The advocacy that we provided both to the UK and the US governments is in respect of that. What we want to see is resolution.

“Obviously, we respect the independence of both the UK and the US judicial systems and we are very respectful of that, but in respect of an Australian citizen who is incarcerated overseas, we are very simply saying that this has been a long time now and this is a circumstance which needs to be resolved.

“We’re advocating on his (Assange) behalf. Julian Assange has been in this situation for a very long period of time. You just can’t incarcerate people indefinitely. There needs to be a resolution and that’s the advocacy that we have been providing to both the US and the UK government.”

The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed Australia would respect the independence of the British judicial system but also expect that Assange should not be incarcerated indefinitely.

Robert Dougherty

Robert Dougherty

Robert is a senior journalist who has previously worked for Seven West Media in Western Australia, as well as Fairfax Media and Australian Community Media in New South Wales. He has produced national headlines, photography and videography of emergency services, business, community, defence and government news across Australia. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Curtin University, attended student exchange program with Fudan University and holds Tier 1 General Advice certification for Kaplan Professional. Reach out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via LinkedIn.
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