Aussie politicians unite in push to release Julian Assange

Andrew Wilkie, flanked by other MPs, urges the return of Julian Assange to Australia.

Andrew Wilkie, flanked by other MPs, urges the return of Julian Assange to Australia. Photo: AAP

A group of 63 Australian MPs and senators have jointly signed a letter demanding an end to the prosecution and incarceration of Julian Assange.

“We are resolutely of the view that the prosecution and incarceration of the Australian citizen Julian Assange must end,” the federal politicians said in a letter published on Thursday.

“It serves no purpose, it is unjust and – as friends should be honest with friends – it undermines Australians’ respect for the US justice system.”

  • Scroll to the bottom of the story to see the full list of MPs and senators

‘Politics, not law’

Independent MP Monique Ryan, a member of the Australian delegation set to visit Washington D.C. this month, said Assange’s case was a test of an important relationship and the government’s commitment to advocacy.

“This situation is politics, not law,” Ryan said this week.

“His prosecution in the US would raise concerning questions about the precedent set for journalists anywhere around the globe should they publish truthful information in the public interest,” she said.

“If the extradition is approved, Australians will witness the deportation of one of our own citizens, with Assange facing a potential life sentence.”

US Ambassador meets supporters

The US Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, last month said there could be a potential diplomatic resolution to the case.

The Ambassador met Assange’s supporters and family members at Parliament in June.

The delegation will meet members of the US House and Senate, the State Department, the Justice Department and organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make a state visit to Washington later this year.

Assange faces 18 charges in the US, mainly related to the publication of thousands of military and diplomatic documents.

He has been detained in London’s Belmarsh Prison for more than four years and is fighting extradition to the United States.

He could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, if found guilty.

Before his imprisonment, Assange spent seven years in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy to evade extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations and was arrested for absconding.

Scottish MP Kenny MacAskill this week questioned the rationale behind Assange’s detention in a maximum-security facility for essentially a minor bail breach.

International concerns

Pope Francis and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have also expressed concerns.

The Pope met Assange’s wife Stella in June, while Brazil’s President publicly criticised the lack of global efforts to free Assange in May.

The Australian delegation travelling to Washington D.C. next week is composed of MPs from a variety of parties: Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Labor MP Tony Zappia, Liberal Senator Alex Antic, and Greens senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson.

The politicians’ letter warns of a “sustained outcry” if Assange is extradited.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released a trove of US intelligence documents about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaked by Chelsea Manning.

Manning was charged with 22 offences, including violating the US Espionage Act, but her sentence was commuted by President Obama in 2017.

Former PM Julia Gillard initially described WikiLeaks conduct as “illegal” before softening her language when no criminal conduct could be proven in Australia.

The call for his release reflect a rare bipartisanship.

PM Albanese has expressed frustration at the lack of resolution and concern about Assange’s mental health, while Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the case had “gone on for too long”.

MPs and senators who signed the letter:

  • Adam Bandt, MP for Melbourne
  • Maria Vamvakinou, MP for Calwell
  • Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator for South Australia
  • Jacqui Lambie, Senator for Tasmania
  • Louise Pratt, Senator for Western Australia
  • Tony Zappia, MP for Makin
  • Luke Howarth, MP for Petrie
  • David Pocock, Senator for Australian Capital Territory
  • Llew O’Brien, MP for Wide Bay
  • Sam Lim, MP for Tangney
  • Alicia Payne, MP for Canberra
  • Mehreen Faruqi, Senator for New South Wales
  • Barnaby Joyce, MP for New England
  • Penny Allman-Payne, Senator for Queensland
  • Scott Buchholz, MP for Wright
  • Shayne Neumann, MP for Blair
  • Libby Coker, MP for Corangamite
  • Max Chandler-Mather, MP for Griffith
  • Malcolm Roberts, Senator for Queensland
  • Andrew Bragg, Senator for New South Wales
  • David Gillespie, MP for Lyne
  • Melissa Price, MP for Durack
  • Susan Templeman, MP for Macquarie
  • Stephen Bates, MP for Brisbane
  • Monique Ryan, MP for Kooyong
  • Kate Chaney, MP for Curtin
  • Rick Wilson, MP for O’Connor
  • Louise Miller-Frost, MP for Boothby
  • Zali Steggall, MP for Warringah
  • Peter Khalil, MP for Wills
  • Allegra Spender, MP for Wentworth
  • Zaneta Mascarenhas, MP for Swan
  • Zoe Daniel, MP for Goldstein
  • Elizabeth Watson-Brown, MP for Ryan
  • Warren Entsch, MP for Leichhardt
  • Jerome Laxale, MP for Bennelong
  • Janet Rice, Senator for Victoria
  • Fiona Phillips, MP for Gilmore
  • Lidia Thorpe, Senator for Victoria
  • Dorinda Cox, Senator for Western Australia
  • Michelle Ananda-Rajah, MP for Higgins
  • Larissa Waters, Senator for Queensland
  • Steve Georganas, MP for Adelaide
  • Mike Freelander, MP for Macarthur
  • Julian Hill, MP for Bruce
  • Alex Antic, Senator for South Australia
  • Sophie Scamps, MP for Mackellar
  • Kylea Tink, MP for North Sydney
  • Nick McKim, Senator for Tasmania
  • Barbara Pocock, Senator for South Australia
  • Peter Whish-Wilson, Senator for Tasmania
  • Jordon Steele-John, Senator for Western Australia
  • Rebekha Sharkie, MP for Mayo
  • Colin Boyce, MP for Flynn
  • Brian Mitchell, MP for Lyons
  • Gerard Rennick, Senator for Queensland
  • Helen Haines, MP for Indi
  • Matt Canavan, Senator for Queensland.
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