West News Wire: While acknowledging that Australia has brought up Julian Assange’s ongoing legal troubles, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed that Washington will continue to press for Assange’s extradition and prosecute him for espionage.
While acknowledging “the concerns and views of Australians,” Blinken said that Assange’s alleged actions “risked very serious harm to our national security, to the benefit of our adversaries, and put named human sources at grave risk grave risk of physical harm, and grave risk of detention” in a speech with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Saturday.
He claimed that Assange had been “charged with very serious criminal conduct” and was involved in “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the internet.”
An Australian citizen, Julian Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison. He is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act and potentially a 175-year prison sentence. Human-rights and press-freedom activists have demanded his release, citing his deteriorating mental and physical health, while Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in May that he was “working through diplomatic channels” to press the US into dropping the case.
The accusations against Assange are the result of his publication of secret information obtained by informants, such as Pentagon papers outlining alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables outlining US efforts to, among other things, spy on its allies and sway foreign elections.
Assange is being tried for espionage even though he did not directly steal these materials. He and his allies contend that the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects WikiLeaks’ release of this information.
Foreign Minister Wong stated on Saturday, “We have made clear our view that Mr. Assange’s case has dragged on for too long.” We’ve stated it in the open, therefore it stands to reason that it also represents the position we take in private.
The extradition of Assange from Britain to the US was approved in 2020 by then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. The publisher lodged his final appeal against the decision in June, after all eight grounds of a previous appeal were rejected by a British High Court judge.
Responding to Blinken’s comments on Saturday, Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, said that it is now up to Prime Minister Albanese to make a public appeal for Assange’s freedom, during his upcoming visit to the US.