Recently (29 July 2023), US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, on a visit to Australia, rejected the call by his Australian counterpart to put an end to the U.S.’s judicial persecution of Julian Assange. Blinken justified his refusal by saying that Assange, with his revelations of US/UK war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, had “risked causing very serious harm to [US] national security.”
But notice his choice of words. Blinken did not state that Assange had actually caused harm (as was claimed at the time of the revelations); he is simply alleged to have risked – hypothetically – causing harm, which is a different story. Indeed, on 16 August 2010, then Defence Secretary Robert Gates sent written testimony to a Senate committee denying that the WikiLeaks revelations had compromised national security in any way. The same for the claim of actually having caused death or personal injury: for Gates such claims are unfounded.
So how can the US justify relentlessly persecuting Assange for nearly 13 years and wanting to imprison him for another 175, just because he allegedly caused a hypothetical risk years ago? Isn’t the disproportion egregious?
That’s the obvious question Blinken’s Australian interlocutors failed to ask him in response to his carefully worded justification.
Nor did Blinken’s interlocutors tell him that the four years Assange has spent in solitary confinement in a British Maximum Security Prison are more than enough to compensate the risk he hypothetically caused and thus the U.S. should withdraw its request for extradition.
Instead, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and the other Australian dignitaries present at the encounter with Biden seemed to have nothing to say.
Yet, clearly, in current bilateral relations, Australia holds the upper hand today. Blinken had come to Australia to ask for the establishment of new military bases to contain China; Australian politicians could certainly have made Assange’s release a precondition for negotiations. Instead, they said nothing.
This capitulation, on the part of Australia, must come to an end!
As activists for Assange, we therefore want to tell the Australian authorities that the time has come to take a more assertive attitude towards the US. Australia now has the leverage to force its ally to put an end to its judicial persecution of Julian Assange. Let Australia use that leverage!
We activists are not alone in wanting Canberra to get moving; we can count on the support of a large part of the Australian population and a significant cross-party coalition in Parliament.
A group of pro-Assange Australians has asked activists worldwide to organise sit-ins or demonstrations on September 2nd outside Australian embassies and consulates, to say to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in no uncertain terms: ‘Dear Albo, enough of your promises to put pressure on the US, now we want to see you visibly on the offensive. AUSTRALIA: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD! GET WITH IT!!! TAKE CONCRETE ACTION NOW FOR THE RELEASE OF JULIAN ASSANGE!!!”
In Rome, Italy, on Saturday, 2 September, at 5pm, Free Assange Roma activists will be assembling in front of the Australian Embassy in via Antonio Bosio 5, just off via Nomentana. Among the speakers will be Davide Dormino, the Italian sculptor who created the monumental statue “Anything to Say?”, replicating Julian Assange next to Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Contemporaneously there will be a sit-in in Milan outside the Australian Consulate in piazza San Babila, organised by the Committee for the Liberation of Julian Assange – Italy. The two events will be connected telephonically. Similar actions will be held in Wellington, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, as well as in Sweden and Mexico.
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