Returns from mercy dash to Sweden and UK on his own dime
By Natalie Apostolou , 26th December 2011 21:00 GMT
The Australian Prime Minister and Attorney General may have shunned Julian Assange in his bid for justice, but Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has emerged as one of the Wikileaks founder’s core supporters.
Ludlam has returned from a mission to Europe where he sought to secure some surety over Assange’s human rights, if he is extradited to Sweden.
The senator plans to use the information he has learned in Stockholm to take the Australian parliament and seek cross-party support for the government to do “everything possible to prevent this extradition”. Ludlum was denied meetings with Swedish foreign ministry officials but he did meet with Swedish justice officials to discuss the extradition process.
“For us it was a chance to get our heads clear about how it would work if and when (Assange) is ordered to return to Sweden,” Ludlam told AAP. Ludlam travelled to the UK and Sweden on the Assange matter at his own expense.
The senator also visited the remand centre where Assange would be held while Swedish prosecutors decide if he will be charged and also briefly met with Assange himself in Kent.
“There is nothing out of the ordinary in that respect, if he is sent there (in Sweden)… it appears his human rights will be protected,” he added but of greater concern is the possibility that he may be extradited to the US once in Swedish authorities hands.
Despite his efforts Ludlum did not appear to make any head way in securing any deals with the Swedish government on the matter of halting any plans to hand Assange over to the US.
“It didn’t seem appropriate to raise it with the officials I met with. I needed to speak with the foreign minister for that,” Ludlam said.
The senator has been one of the few members of parliament that have tackled the diplomatically tricky Assange issue so publicly and has been calling for the government to take a far more proactive role in stopping any possibility of Assange’s extradition to the US.
“Prime Minister Gillard’s stunning miscalculation in attacking the WikiLeaks organisation are likely to haunt her. Let us be completely clear. Julian Assange didn’t leak anything,” he writes on his blog.
“Apart from the excruciating contribution of our own Attorney-General, very few of those offering legal opinions thus far have any qualifications to do so. If Mr Assange and his organisation have committed crimes, then let the arguments be heard in an open court. Given the tone of some of the more unhinged commentary from the United States and elsewhere calling for the extrajudicial killing of Mr Assange, it is far from clear what his extradition to the United States would actually mean,” he states.
In mid-December Assange was granted permission to appeal against his extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual molestation and rape. This will mark his final appeal against his expulsion from Britain. The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing across two days, beginning on 1 February 2012.
“Assange has Australian citizenship entitlements. He deserves better than the cheap and misguided sound-bite politics offered up so far by the Australian Government as they scramble into long-term damage control on behalf of our wounded ally and own diplomatic reputation,” Ludlam said.