Politicians from Australia and the UK, from all political leanings, have asked U.S. Attorney-General Merrick Garland to end all extradition attempts for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an open letter, 48 Australian parliamentarians from the government, opposition, and crossbench said extradition would set a “dangerous precedent” for freedom of the press and be “needlessly damaging” for the United States as a world leader in freedom of expression.
“If the extradition request is approved, Australians will witness the deportation of one of our citizens from one AUKUS partner to another—our closest strategic ally—with Mr Assange facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison,” the letter reads. The MPs and senators noted that Assange has been “effectively incarcerated” for over a decade, while the person who leaked the classified information, Chelsea Manning, has “been able to participate in American society since 2017.”
Assange’s father, John Shipton, previously said that his son’s incarceration was “excoriating and scarring” for him and his family. But he was heartened at the growing support for his release from across the political spectrum.
Similarly, 35 UK MPs and Lords from six parties have written to Garland requesting that the attorney general uphold the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and drop the extradition proceedings to allow Assange to return to Australia. The parliamentarians said extradition to the United States would have a “chilling impact” on journalism and set a dangerous precedent for other journalists and media organisations.
Assange, an Australian citizen, is wanted by the United States on 18 criminal charges of breaking an espionage law and conspiring to hack government computers after WikiLeaks published a U.S. military video in 2010 showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed multiple civilians, including two Reuters news staff. He faces up to 175 years behind bars if convicted.
He noted that he was unaware of anyone else subject to “inhumane” conditions while yet to be formally charged with a criminal offence. Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Assange’s release was not an issue the Australian government could resolve. In 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Parliament that it was “time that this matter be brought to a close.”