By Ben Wilson
It is very good that former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has come out to stand against the extradition of Julian Assange from Britain to the United States. This is despite Rudd himself being exposed by WikiLeaks documents made public.
It remains that an Australian had been arrested and then a process to extradite him to a third country and try him in secret without proper evidence, and under the charge of espionage, which carries a long time in prison, and even the possibility of a death sentence.
Having been exposed himself, the former prime minister has reason to be no fan of Assange and WikiLeaks. But he has been able to transcend this, seeing that it has all gone too far, and joining the cross-party group of politicians pressing for the journalist’s release and to be allowed to come back to Australia.
Kevin Rudd says that the extradition process is an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate.” He adds, Assange should not take the fall for Washington’s failures to secure its own classified documents. Rudd says that US prosecutors had not shown that the leaks, over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had harmed anyone.
In a letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, he said he could not see the difference between Assange and the editors of many American media outlets reporting the material provided to them.
Kevin Rudd is not the only high-profile person to join this campaign, in the wake of growing concern over the 48-year old’s physical and mental health.
Filmmaker James Ricketson, who had suffered 15 months in a Cambodian prison after flying a drone over an anti-government rally. In his own letter to Scott Morrison, he has said: “The evidence that Julian Assange is not being ‘treated fairly’ in accordance with UK law is now overwhelming, as is evidence of the psychological torture he is being subjected to in Belmarsh Prison.” He has joined the call for Julian Assange’s release.
Actress and model Pamela Anderson flew to Australia to win support for the case, sand she has sent her own letter to Scott Morrison, warned that if Assange is extradited, “every other journalist is vulnerable through the Westminster legal process of the law of precedent”.
A group of more than 60 doctors in the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries has written to the British Home Secretary, calling for the prisoner to be provided with adequate medical treatment, which he is not currently receiving.
As important as Julian Assange’s health is, concern about this should not deflect from the reality of the bigger issue. Assange and WikiLeaks have done nothing wrong. Although Kevin Rudd has made it clear that he regards the leaking of secret documents wrong, others hold that governments are far too secretive, and that they often hide information to save their own skins.
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters signs Wish You Were Here for Julian Assange at s rally in London in September this year
Video from Stereogum
They say that the people who these governments are supposed to serve, have the right to know about what affects them. The Iraq and Afghanistan warts are a case in point.
The leaks did a lot to help prove that we had been deliberately lied to. That the justifications used were untrue, and that crimes against humanity were committed in our name. This should never be lost sight of.
Julian Assange must be released, and the Australian government has an obligation to play a major part in ensuring this happens. It cannot be allowed to continue its failure to do so.