Australia’s political leaders must find a backbone and stand up for Julian Assange

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, 47, was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, charges he denies. The UK will now decide whether to extradite him to US to face conspiracy charges after his whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published classified US documents. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

By Joe Montero

Even to the most cynical, it should have become plainly obvious now. Julian Assange is not in custody for criminal behaviour, unless you believe informing us of wrongdoing by individuals in high places should be regarded as criminal.

Australians who see past the subterfuge, know that there is a lot at stake and are aware of the disgraceful cowardice shown by Australia’s political leaders to date.

Consider this. Assange fronted the court yesterday for having skipped bail. This was not over charges that had been previously laid against him. There were none. Authorities in Sweden had wanted to ask a few questions. They were not seeking his arrest to face criminal charges. The case eventually fell apart and was dropped anyway.

He had presented himself to the police station in Sweden to answer questions and they sent him away. He had not turned up in London to run from justice.

This is where it changes. Sweden then resurrected the case and issued a red notice through Interpol. These notices are only issued in relation to high order fugitives like mass murderers. They are not tied to minor cases, unless there is a political aspect to it.

Julian Assange had learned of a connection between this and a move to have him extradited to the United States on espionage related accusations carrying the possibility of a death penalty.  This is why he ended up in the Ecuador embassy.

Some who should know better, are still prone to be hooked into the sewer of character assassination waged over the intervening years via media, to condition the public to cruel treatment and take attention from the real issues.

Giving currency to allegations that Assange is against women, smears excrement on walls and neglects to feed the cat, gives aid to the character assassination and denial of the truth. Even peddling the more serious allegations that he is in with Donald Trump and working for the Russians helps to do this.

Those who take part in it, whether they are conscious of it or not, really take part in justifying the wrongdoings of political and business leaders exposed through WikiLeaks. They are saying that all the rumours about Assange are more important, than actions that have caused the slaughter of many thousands of human beings; that it is all right for political leaders to tell lies; and for big corporations to launder billions through tax free havens. They are saying that we don’t have a right to know.

By condemning Julian Assange, they are aiding and abetting a process that is curtailing what journalists can say. Central to this case, is taking away the right for journalists to not reveal their sources, and making it a criminal offence, when journalists provide the public with information of bad behaviour, which powerful people want to keep secret.

It is time to climb out of this sewer.

It doesn’t take a brains trust, to release that whatever happens to Assange, is going to set an important precedent, which will have ongoing repercussions. We are all threatened by this.

Full forward to yesterday’s court case in London. He was brought before the judge from the country’s highest security prison and sentenced to a year in prison, minus two the weeks he has already been locked up.

Let’s get this in perspective. Skipping bail usually means the person is locked up till the case is heard, if it involves a serious crime. But in this case, there is no associated crime. Assange was brought before a show trial. He was not allowed proper defence, such as, that he believed he faced the prospect of extradition to the United States. It is normal practice for a court to consider extenuating circumstances like this.

The political trial dismissed this. And then in the most cynical move yet, the judge sent him to face exactly what he sais would happen. Today begins the hearing on the application by the United States to extradite him.

The latest information is that he is to be charged by the United States with helping Chelsea Manning to evade detection for leaking secret documents. The reason for this particular charge, is that British law does not allow anyone facing a possible death sentence to be handed over. The lesser charge will allow this to take place. When he is on American soil, other more serious charges can and will likely be laid.

This abuse of legal process must not be allowed to succeed. And a key to this are Australia’s political leaders, who need to find a backbone and stop behaving like cringing flunkies.

Pressure must be put on them to compel them to defend an Australian citizen. Australia must insist that Julian Assange be allowed to return to Australia as a free man.

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