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Australia will continue ‘constructive’ talks on Assange

Julian Assange remains in jail in the UK and is wanted in the US on 18 charges.

Julian Assange remains in jail in the UK and is wanted in the US on 18 charges. Photo: AAP

Australia is being urged to help secure a deal to release Julian Assange after he was granted leave to appeal his extradition from the UK to the US.

The union for Australia’s journalists branded the British High Court’s decision a “small win” for the WikiLeaks founder as it called for his freedom.

The Australian’s lawyers argued he might not be able to rely on his right to free speech in a US court.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie welcomed the decision as a “good outcome” but acknowledged there were downsides.

“It’s good that Julian Assange is not on an aeroplane to the US … it’s good that he gets another chance to have the whole matter dropped in court,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“(It) also gives everyone more time to strike a deal or to finalise the deal if one is in the offing.”

“Of course, there’s a downside though, Julian remains in Belmarsh prison in London facing months or years of further court action in the UK.”

A deal needed to be struck to secure Assange’s freedom, he said.

“He should never have been in Belmarsh prison … there should have been a deal struck by now to get him out.

“Julian Assange is a very unwell man, regardless of what you think of him, surely he has suffered enough and should be allowed to be reunited with his family and to return to Australia if that’s his wish.”

The 52-year-old is wanted in the US on 18 charges, nearly all under the Espionage Act, relating to WikiLeaks’ mass release of secret US documents – the largest security breach of its kind in US military history.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would continue to work in a “constructive fashion” and maintained its position the pursuit of Mr Assange had gone on for long enough.

“There’s nothing to be served by the ongoing incarceration of Mr Assange and we continue to work very closely to achieve that outcome,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Assange’s argument that he might not be able to rely on the US First Amendment right to free speech deserved a full appeal, two senior judges said after Monday’s hearing.

The High Court was correct in not accepting “assurances” by the US about how Assange would be treated in the US legal system, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said.

“(The) decision by the High Court is a small win for Julian Assange and for the cause of media freedom worldwide,” MEAA Media Federal President Karen Percy said in a statement.

The union urged US President Joe Biden to intervene to end the prosecution of Assange to avoid dragging the case out even longer, Percy said.

“We call on the Australian government to keep up the pressure on the US to drop the charges so Julian Assange can be reunited with his family.”

The ongoing prosecution was curtailing free speech, criminalising journalism and sending a clear message to future whistleblowers and publishers that they too will be punished, Percy said.

Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton told the ABC he would soon travel from London to the US to lobby officials.

“The only way that this is going to come to a quick conclusion is through the Australian government’s advocacy and them using their coercive leverage with the United States, to get Julian home,” he said.

– AAP

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