Australia’s Role in Freeing Julian Assange

By Neenah Payne

Julian Assange, Australian founder of WikiLeaks, was freed from London’s  Belmarsh prison on June 25. He had spent over seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to the United States and over five years in Belmarsh although he had not been charged with any crime.  The US wanted to imprison him for 175 years under the Espionage Act although he is not a US citizen!

When Assange landed in Australia on June 26 and received a call from the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Assange said, “You saved my life!”. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s Australian legal counsel, worked on his case for 10 years. Jennifer Robinson thanked the PM, the Australian ambassador to Washington, DC. Dr Kevin Rudd, and other Australian officials without whose help Assange would not have been freed.

Stella Assange’s Pivotal Roles For Julian shows that Julian was able to celebrate his 53rd birthday on July 3 in Australia with his family, in part, because of the courageous role of his wife Stella. Stella Moris, the South African lawyer and legal researcher, joined WikiLeaks in 2011. Because Stella is a Swedish national, fluent in Swedish, she was able to help litigate Assange’s case in Sweden. Stella is also fluent in Spanish and facilitated Assange’s asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012.

Stella Assange Addresses Australian National Press Club shows that Stella addressed The National Press Club in Australia on 5/22/23. Julian Assange’s life ‘in hands of Australian government’, wife Stella says. ‘Extradition in this case is a matter of life and death,’ campaigner tells National Press Club.  See Stella’s speech here. The Australian government increased demands that President Biden release Assange.

How Australia Freed Assange

Australian delegation of parliamentarians will stand for Julian Assange in Washington 9/14/23

Nowhere has this been more evident than it has in Australia. As it stands, polls are saying that the support for him is at a near a record 80 percent. This is unheard of. Successive governments had refused to listen to this growing tide of public opinion. This is now changing. Both prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton are saying “enough is enough.” Despite its ambiguity and fence sitting nature, this remains a kind of recognition of public opinion, a shift at the highest echelons of parliamentary politics, and the fact that the issue can no longer be ignored.

Time saw the rise of a major support group of parliamentarians from all parties and the independents, and the unlikely allies have been getting bolder. They call themselves the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group. Its conveners are independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the Labor MP Josh Wilson, the Liberal MP Bridget Archer, and the Greens senator David Shoebridge.

Now 63 of them have come out publicly and put their names to a public letter to say that this persecution is “unjust,” and if extradition of Assange to the United States goes ahead as planned, it will lead to an “outcry” in Australia.

A representative group of 6 will arrive in Washington by 20 October, carrying the backing of Australia and their colleagues to try and convince members of the Congress and Justice Department officials, to stop the pursuit of the highly awarded Australian journalist, editor, and publisher. The team will be made up of former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, Liberal Senator Alex Antic, Labor MP Tony Zappia, Independent MP Monique Ryan and Greens Senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson.

Their timing is excellent. Anthony Albanese is due to meet President Joe Biden there on 25 October, and a considerable number of Congress and Senate members there are already on side. The Biden administration is finding it increasingly difficult to justify the continuation of its efforts to press on with the extradition and looking for a way out.

A few weeks ago, suggestions were made through media about Assange pleading guilty in exchange for going soft on him. This didn’t go down well. It left the way open to realise Washington’s persistent ambition to record a conviction as a precedent to destroy Julian Assange’s credibility along the way, for no more than a vague promise.

But the fact that the Biden administration has gone down this road is testimony to its growing weakness. The Assange case is damaging its reputation and political standing across the world. The United States claim to be a defender of democracy and human rights are taking a battering.

Other than the question of justice, the Assange case will set a terrible precedent if the persecution succeeds. It will open the door to hunt down journalists the world over, simply because what they say is inconvenient. The fact that the intention is to charge Assange with being a traitor to the United States and seek 175 years imprisonment, when the Australian defendant isn’t a citizen of that country, and the process through which the persecution is being carried through, makes a mockery of both international and national law.

The world is realising the enormity of what is at stake.  There is a major and growing movement of active Assange supporters, in every nation. From heads of state and politicians at one end, to ordinary citizens at the other. They are all doing their part making a huge difference.

How Australia’s quiet diplomacy led Julian Assange to freedom 6/26/24

After Julian Assange was released by a court on the remote U.S. Pacific territory of Saipan on Wednesday, ending a 14-year legal battle, the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyer first thanked Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for making the outcome possible.

Jennifer Robinson, the Australian attorney of Assange, said diplomacy and intense lobbying with the highest authorities in the U.S. played a big role in Assange walking free, after spending five years in a high-security British prison and seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“At every opportunity, and when Australian officials were making outreach to the U.S., they knew that they were acting with the full authority of the prime minister of Australia,” Robinson told reporters outside the courtroom in Saipan. “This work has been complex and it has been considered. This is what standing up for Australians around the world looks like,” Albanese, leader of a centre-left Labor government, told parliament on Wednesday.

Assange, who landed in Australia on Wednesday evening, had faced a maximum jail sentence of 175 years after being charged with 17 counts of breaching the U.S. Espionage Act and a hacking-related charge. Under a deal revealed on Tuesday, he pled guilty to a single charge of espionage and walked free.

The deal gained momentum as the U.S. faced growing challenges in the UK over the legality of extraditing Assange, while Australian lawmakers and diplomats raised the heat in Washington and London. “I wish to thank the prime minister, Albanese, the officials who have been working … on securing Julian’s release,” his wife Stella said shortly after Assange touched down in Canberra. “I’d also like to thank the Australian people who have made this possible, because without their support, there would not be the political space to be able to achieve Julian’s freedom.”

Assange, who landed in Australia on Wednesday evening, had faced a maximum jail sentence of 175 years after being charged with 17 counts of breaching the U.S. Espionage Act and a hacking-related charge. Under a deal revealed on Tuesday, he pled guilty to a single charge of espionage and walked free.

When Labor won power in May 2022, Assange finally had state diplomatic support behind him. Later that year Albanese called for his release on the floor of the House of Representatives, the first time a Prime Minister had mentioned Assange in parliament since 2012.

The appointment of Smith and Rudd to the top diplomatic jobs in London and Washington in late 2022 added two more sympathetic lobbyists for Assange’s cause. Smith visited Assange in Belmarsh prison in April 2023, the first such visit by Australia’s top U.K. diplomat since he was imprisoned four years earlier.

As recently as last July, U.S. officials appeared determined to prosecute Assange. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that month Australia needed to understand U.S. concerns. However, a month later, U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy said a deal was possible. After the cross-party delegation of Australian politicians travelled to Washington in September to speak to Republican and Democrat lawmakers about the Assange case, the Biden administration appeared to be softening its response.

Joe Biden said in April, “We are considering it,” when asked by media about Australia’s request to end Assange’s prosecution. But it was the London High Court’s decision in May to allow Assange to appeal against his extradition that triggered the breakthrough in negotiations over a plea deal according to his wife Stella. “It took millions of people. It took people working behind the scenes, people protesting on the streets for days and weeks and months and years,” Stella Assange said. “And we achieved it.”

Kevin Rudd details diplomatic efforts to free Julian Assange 6/27/24

Australian Ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd tells David Speers about the diplomatic efforts involved in securing the release of Julian Assange. Albanese has claimed Assange’s release as a win for the country, which leveraged its security ties with Washington and London to strengthen its case to resolve the plight of an Australian citizen.

The inside story of how Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was freed 7/1/124

As Julian Assange gets used to freedom after 12 years inside the Ecuadorian embassy and Belmarsh prison, new details are emerging about the complex deal that allowed him to return to Australia. Julian Assange’s long-term legal counsel Jen Robinson has told 7.30 that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last year passed on a crucial piece of information following discussions with President Joe Biden that led his legal team to push for a plea deal.

7.30 has been told that initially the US Department of Justice wanted the Wikileaks publisher to serve eight years in jail before he was released, but that one of the red lines in negotiations was that Mr Assange refused to serve any more time. For the first time, two of the people closest to those negotiations reveal crucial details of how the deal was struck – the sticking points, the key players, and how it all nearly fell over.

For More Information

How Julian Assange Was Finally Freed

Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post

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