SAWC Media Release: Australian government must act NOW to stop US extraditing Assange

SAWC|29 February, 2012

“If the US take Julian Assange for prosecution, they will take the rights of all Australian citizens with him. It’s time for our government to answer the question posed by WikiLeaks: does our government’s allegiance lie with us, the Australian people, or with the US government?”

Today, Linda Pearson of the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition responded to evidence that the US government plans to charge Julian Assange for his work as Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks.

On Monday 27 February WikiLeaks began releasing the “Global Intelligence Files”: 5.5 million emails from Stratfor, a private US-based intelligence-gathering firm. The firm pays sources in governments and media organisations across the word for information which is then sold on to clients including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

“With the release of the Stratfor files, WikiLeaks has again provided a great service to democracy”, Pearson said.  “These emails reveal the inner workings of a ‘shadow CIA’ operating without legislative or judicial oversight. They shed light on the extent of privatised spying across the globe.”

As reported in The Age today, on January 26, 2011 Stratfor Vice-President, Fred Burton, wrote in an email sent to Stratfor intelligence analysts: “We have a sealed indictment on Assange.”

The US Department of Justice today refused to comment on whether the indictment exists, but Mr Burton is a former US Chief of Counterterrorism and is known to be well-connected to US intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“The Australian government must act now to prevent the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States”, responded Pearson. “Prime Minister Gillard must immediately seek confirmation of these reports from the US government. She must state publicly that our government objects to Assange being extradited to the US, under any circumstances.”

Assange is currently under house arrest in the UK awaiting the verdict of his Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault.

“If extradited to Sweden he could be secretly sent on to the United States under a legal device known as ‘temporary surrender’. We fear he could be charged there under the archaic Espionage Act and could face the death penalty” said Pearson.

“We know from cables released last year that Australian officials have raised no concerns with the US about US plans to extradite Assange”, Pearson continued. “They just asked to be informed before US authorities make their move. An Australian’s life and liberty are in imminent danger, and our government just wants time to prepare their PR spin.”

In 2010 Prime Minister Gillard’s false claim that Assange had acted illegally caused public outrage. An investigation by the Australian Federal Police found Assange had committed no crime. In 2011 WikiLeaks was given the Walkely Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism.

“The people of Australia support Assange, so why doesn’t our government?” Pearson asked. “This is not just about a threat to one individual”, she continued. “Our government’s handling of Assange’s case indicates complete disregard for free speech, freedom of the press and the rule of law. It’s time for them to step up to defend him, and to defend our democracy.”

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