Exclusive: Inside the Australian Mission to Halt Julian Assange’s U.S. Extradition

CANBERRA, Australia – A coalition of Australian political figures announced their intentions on Tuesday to visit Washington later this month. Their objective is to persuade the U.S government to halt its ongoing attempts to extradite Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

The contingent, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, is comprised of six representatives hailing from diverse political backgrounds. The visit is strategized to amplify the concerns regarding Assange’s extradition, especially ahead of the forthcoming White House visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, slated for the end of October.

Monique Ryan, an independent legislator who is part of this delegation, communicated to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the members unifiedly embody a substantial assembly of legislators profoundly committed to ensuring Assange’s liberation.

Ryan emphasized the urgency of the issue, highlighting Assange’s deteriorating health condition. Assange, a native Australian, has been resisting extradition to the United States while confined in the UK’s Belmarsh Prison over the last four years. Accused of espionage due to the release of confidential military and diplomatic documents via WikiLeaks, Assange is facing the possibility of a prison sentence extending up to 175 years if convicted.

This initiative by the Australian representatives adds to the growing international discourse challenging the legitimacy of the extradition. Earlier, Pope Francis expressed solidarity by meeting Assange’s spouse, Stella, in June. Moreover, Brazil’s President, Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, criticized the insufficient global endeavors aimed at securing Assange’s release, earlier in May.

Before his imprisonment, Assange sought refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years, evading a potential extradition to Sweden following allegations of sexual assault. However, this investigation was eventually abandoned by Swedish authorities in 2019, citing the prolonged duration since the claims were made.

In a conversation with the media, human rights attorney and adviser to the Assange campaign, Greg Barns, voiced the prevalent sentiment among Australians that the situation needs a resolution. He urged for Assange to be allowed to reunite with his family, a possibility only achievable if the U.S Department of Justice retracts its current extradition request.

In their upcoming visit, the delegation is scheduled to confer with prominent U.S governmental bodies and institutes, including members of the House and Senate, the State Department, and the Justice Department. Meetings with several organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and the Committee to Protect Journalists are also on their agenda.

Highlighting the nationwide consensus, Gabriel Shipton, Assange’s sibling, noted that even those Australians who disapprove of Assange’s methods agree that he has endured enough and should now be granted his freedom. Meanwhile, U.S prosecutors maintain that Assange assisted U.S Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, in the unauthorized acquisition and dissemination of sensitive diplomatic and military documents, consequently endangering numerous lives.