Assange was released after the Australian Prime Minister raised the case with Biden

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Julian Assange’s imminent return to his native Australia follows years of “diplomatic silence” and public protests as Canberra took advantage of strengthened ties with Washington and London to demand the release of the WikiLeaks founder. .

Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has raised the issue with officials from US President Joe Biden, as contacts strengthen under the auspices of the 2021 Aukus deal with Washington and London.

Greg Barns, a lawyer who has worked on the case for 11 years, praised the Albanese government as “the first Australian government to elevate the Assange case to a leadership level”.

Barns added that there was “no doubt” the Labor government played a key role in the plea bargain that allowed the Queensland-born activist to stand trial. walk freely.

By agreement, Assange was charged with conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information relating to the national defense of the United States. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday before a court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth north of Guam. He is then expected to fly to Australia.

Albanian has long called for Assange’s release after 12 years in detention for one of the largest leaks of classified documents in US history. But he also faces growing pressure to secure Assange’s release, spanning across the Australian political spectrum, from the left-wing Green party to the rural National party.

The Labor Government’s emphasis on “quiet diplomacy” contrasts with previous prime minister Scott Morrison, who took a more assertive approach to international affairs.

There were signs of stress. At a meeting in Brisbane last July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing alongside the Australian foreign and defense ministers, said Assange’s case had been discussed but stressed that Australia needed to “understand the relationship our concern”.

He added that the WikiLeaks founder had been charged with “very serious criminal conduct”.

But a month later, Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Australia, said the case could be resolved.

As contacts intensified, Albanese asked Biden about the incident during a visit to Washington in October but added that he had not asked the US president to intervene directly.

Mark Dreyfus, Australia’s attorney general, also held talks with his counterpart Merrick Garland.

Albanese’s appointment of Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister, as ambassador to the US is a further boost to negotiations with Washington.

To demonstrate the high level of engagement of the Australian mission in the UK, Stephen Smith, the Australian high commissioner, traveled on the same plane as Assange following his release from Belmarsh prison in London.

Washington has long argued that Assange put lives at risk when WikiLeaks published leaked information related to US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But some Assange supporters in Australia have portrayed him as a political prisoner – he spent seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy and five years in Belmarsh prison while fighting a US extradition request. Others objected to the “extra-territorial nature” of US extradition efforts or simply argue that the incident has gone on too long.

A month after Albanese was elected in 2022, a group of pro-Assange lawmakers accused him of “abandoning an Australian hero” after Britain agreed to extradite the Australian citizen to the US.

In a sign of further pressure, the House of Commons of the Australian Parliament passed a motion calling for Assange’s return in February this year.


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