Anthony Albanese has declared “enough is enough” over the incarceration of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who remains jailed in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.
In a strong sign that political will is forming to argue for his release and end the diplomatic deadlock, the Prime Minister confirmed moves are afoot to resolve the issue ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Australia.
In an interview conducted in London, Mr Albanese said he was frustrated that a diplomatic solution to Julian Assange’s ongoing incarceration had not been found and he said he remained concerned about the 51-year-old’s health.
“I continue to say in private what I said publicly as Labor leader and what I’ve said as prime minister: that enough is enough. This needs to be brought to a conclusion,” Mr Albanese told the ABC during an interview in London.
“It needs to be worked through – including, we’re working through diplomatic channels – but we’re making very clear what our position is on Mr Assange’s case.”
Anthony Albanese has said ‘enough is enough’ over the incarceration of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
The US Justice Department wants to extradite the Australian to face trial on 17 counts of breaching the Espionage Act but the WikiLeaks founder is appealing that move.
The charges relate to the leaking of 700,000 classified documents by former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010.
She was imprisoned from 2010 until 2017 when her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.
The Prime Minister said the punishment of Mr Assange has been disproportionate given that Ms Mannings had been jailed and released years ago.
“I think that when Australians look at the circumstances, look at the fact that the person who released the information (Chelsea Manning) is walking freely now, having served some time in incarceration but is now released for a long period of time, then they’ll see that there is a disconnect there.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP
Mr Albanese declined to say whether he would raise the plight of Julian Assange directly with the US President.
“The way that diplomacy works is probably not to forecast the discussions that you will have or have had with leaders of other nations,” Mr Albanese said.
“I know it’s frustrating. I share the frustration. I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is and the US administration is certainly very aware of what the Australian government’s position is.
“I am concerned about Mr Assange’s mental health. There was a court decision here in the United Kingdom that was then overturned on appeal that went to Mr Assange’s health as well, and I am concerned for him.”
Mr Albanese said it was not about condoning Mr Assange’s action.
Peter Dutton has backed Anthony Albanese on the issue. Picture: NCA/NewsWire Emma Brasier
“I’m not going to sit here as someone who chairs our National Security Committee and say it’s fine if you publish all of the details about our National Security Committee deliberations because if you did that Australian lives would be put in danger,’’ he said.
“There are real consequences for that … I’m a big supporter of freedom of the press, but with that also comes a responsibility to take into account the consequences of whether information which is not available to the public, what the consequences would be if we had just a free for all.
In a strong sign bipartisan support is growing for action on Mr Assange, the Liberal leader Peter Dutton backed the Albanese Government’s push to resolve the issue.
“I think it’s gone on for too long,” he said.
Doctor’s grim diagnosis for Julian AssangePM reveals details about Assange case
“I think that’s the fault of many people, including Mr. Assange, to be honest, but the matters I think, have to be dealt with.
“There’ll be a lot of sensitivity around the discussion. So it doesn’t help to publicly speculate on it too much,” he said.
Read related topics:Anthony AlbanesePeter Dutton