Assange's woes: US shuns Australia's pleas in Ausmin talks
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been embroiled in a complex and contentious legal battle, making his plight one of the most high-profile cases in recent years.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rejected Australia's demands to halt the pursuit of Julian Assange, arguing that the WikiLeaks founder's alleged actions pose a serious national security risk.
During high-level discussions in Brisbane focused on military cooperation, Blinken acknowledged that Australia had raised Assange's case multiple times and understood the concerns of the Australian government. However, he emphasized that it was crucial for Australia to grasp the US' concerns about Assange's purported involvement in a significant compromise of classified information.
Following the meeting, several important announcements were made, including the US' decision to increase the frequency of nuclear-powered submarine visits to Australia and its commitment to enhancing rotations of maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
Additionally, the US pledged support for Australia to develop domestic missile manufacturing capabilities within two years. Despite some Republicans seeking additional funding for US production, the US assured Australia that efforts to secure congressional support for the AUKUS deal were on track.
The US refuses to back down
US State Secretary Antony Blinken's defense of the US charges against Assange has been seen as a setback for those advocating for his release. Assange remains in Belmarsh prison in London, fighting against extradition to the US, where he faces charges related to the publication of extensive leaked documents about the atrocities and war crimes the US has committed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong confirmed raising Assange's case with the US government. During a joint press conference with Blinken, Wong expressed the view that Assange's case has already dragged on for too long and emphasized the desire for a resolution, consistent with their public and private positions.
During a shared media briefing with Blinken, Wong said: “We have made clear our view that Mr Assange’s case has dragged for too long, and our desire that it be brought to a conclusion, and we’ve said that publicly and you would anticipate that that reflects also the position we articulate in private.”
While reiterating the US' policy of not commenting on extradition proceedings, Blinken acknowledged that Assange's case had been previously raised with them. He showed understanding for the concerns of Australians and stressed the gravity of the charges brought against Assange by the US Department of Justice, citing potential risks to national security and the safety of named human sources.
“I really do understand and certainly confirm what Penny said about the fact that this matter was raised with us, as it has been in the past, and I understand the sensitivities, I understand the concerns and views of Australians,” he said.
“I think it is very important that our friends here understand our concerns about this matter,” he added.
“The actions that he has alleged to have committed 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,” Blinken said.
“So, I say that only because just as we understand sensitivities here, it’s important that our friends understand sensitivities in the United States,” he claimed.
Julian Assange's lawyer recently cited suicide as a possible outcome if the Australian is extradited to the #US on his espionage charges.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) October 30, 2021
Here's a timeline of some key dates from Assange’s life.#JulianAssange #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/FTSGibxwQO
Enough is enough
Gabriel Shipton, Assange's brother, urged Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to advocate for Julian's freedom during his upcoming visit to the US. Shipton expressed disappointment in Blinken's stance, pointing out that Chelsea Manning, the person responsible for leaking the information Assange published, has been free since 2017.
“Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s snub to Australians demanding Julian’s freedom cuts deeper knowing the American who allegedly leaked the information has been free since 2017,” Shipton said.
Greg Barns, an advisor to the Australian Assange Campaign, emphasized that Australia is the US' closest ally and called on Blinken to understand the overwhelming view of Australians, who demand Julian's immediate release to reunite with his family.
“Australia is the US’s closest ally,” Barns said.
“Mr Blinken needs to understand the overwhelming view of Australians which is that enough is enough. Julian must be released immediately and be able to rejoin his family,” he added.