Ex-Australian foreign minister Bob Carr urges Assange's freedom

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a small protest near the State opera in Vienna, Austria on June 8, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr called Monday (June 20) for his country to demand the United States drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Britain last week approved the Australian's extradition to the United States, where he could face life in prison over publishing secret military files.

Assange's lawyers have vowed to appeal.

The long-running legal saga began in 2010 after WikiLeaks published more than 500,000 classified US documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange has been held on remand at a top-security jail in south-east London since 2019 for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden.

That case was dropped but he was not released on grounds he was a flight risk in the US extradition case.

In an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Carr argued that Assange's prosecution stood in sharp contrast to the US pardoning former military intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, who had leaked the secret files to WikiLeaks.

Mr Carr said this was newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's "most potent argument" to advocate for Assange's release.

"If Albanese asks, my guess is America will agree," Mr Carr wrote. "Our new prime minister can say: 'We're not fans of the guy either, Mr President, but it's gone on long enough. We're good allies. Let this one drop'."

While campaigning for May elections that swept his Labor Party to power, Mr Albanese said that "enough is enough" and that he does not "see what purpose is served by the ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange".

Mr Carr was serving as foreign minister when Assange, who was facing sexual assault allegations, sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

For much of the past decade, Australia's previous conservative government did not publicly advocate for Assange's release.

On Monday, Ms Stella Assange, the WikiLeaks' founder's wife, told ABC radio that the Australian government had spoken about the prosecution with its US counterparts.

"My understanding is that the Australian government is raising it and that is extremely welcome news," she said.

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