Australian MPs against US extradition push to visit US in solidarity with Julian Assange

A group of Australian lawmakers have planned to visit the United States later this month to demand an end to Washington’s push to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited to the country.

The delegation of federal MPs and senators traveling on September 20 to Washington, DC includes former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Labor MP Tony Zappia, Liberal senator Alex Antic, independent MP Monique Ryan, and Greens senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson.

The multi-party delegation will urge US leaders to abandon their efforts to have Assange, who is an Australian citizen, extradited to the US to face 18 charges — 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse — related to the publication of thousands of military and diplomatic documents revealing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq on his whistleblower website. If convicted, Assange could face up to two life sentences in jail.

US prosecutors allege Assange helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting US servicemen’s lives at risk.

The Australian journalist, who was arrested by British authorities in April 2019 after losing the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had taken refuge for years, has been held in the Belmarsh Prison in London for more than four years.

Assange’s lawyers are currently appealing the UK’s decision to agree to his extradition to the United States.

“What we will be asking the US to do is to demonstrate their commitment to the First Amendment,” Ryan said. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution instructs the US Congress to defend freedom of speech and the press.

The Australian lawmaker said it is the duty of the Australian government to protect its citizens, particularly those who are in poor health which makes the matter more pressing.  She said, “We understand that he is in really poor health and I think that is a really acute concern. And I think it is time, as I said earlier, enough is enough and it is time to bring Julian Assange home to Australia, he should not be extradited to the United States.

Ryan also cited the latest surveys from across the country showing more than 90 percent of the people in Australia think Assange should be allowed to return to his homeland, Australia.

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