When: April 19
Call: 9094 7800
Preview: Stephen A Russell
The fate of the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is about to be decided by the UK Supreme Court after almost 500 days of house arrest. In a timely piece of programming, the Wheeler Centre will host a free event enshrining democratic transparency and the importance of whistleblowers.
Appearing alongside Assange’s mother, Christine, Australian Lawyers Alliance president Greg Barns will highlight what he says is the Australian government’s neglect in supporting one of its citizens.
“The Australian government is merely doing the bidding of the US administration,” he says.
Assange faces extradition from the UK to Sweden on sexual assault charges.
“There’s no doubt the Swedes have behaved appallingly in this matter,” Barns says, and claims the Swedish Government will hand Assange over to the US.
“Without the Australian government getting some backbone and talking to Washington, it’s inevitable Assange will end up with a similar fate to Bradley Manning,” he says.
Manning is accused of handing over the mass of US embassy cables and government secrets that WikiLeaks sensationally revealed. Subsequently held in solitary confinement for almost a year, he is still awaiting court martial.
The Wheeler Centre event aims to raise awareness of Assange’s plight.
“This could happen to any Australian,” Barns says. “We’ve seen this before with David Hicks. Julia Gillard has been a disgrace on this issue, as has Tony Abbott.
‘‘The only person who has handled the issue well is Malcolm Turnbull. He has rightly stood up for the fundamental legal principles that say any Australian citizen who gets into trouble overseas is entitled to full consular support. It sets a very bad precedent for future cases.”