A group of 63 members of Australia’s parliament have urged the US to drop the charges against WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange, who faces up to 175 years in prison if extradited to the US and convicted for exposing US war crimes.
According to The Guardian, the 63 MPs, which include members of Australia’s House of Representatives and Senate, said in a letter that if Assange is extradited, there will be “a sharp and sustained outcry in Australia.”
Assange has been held in London’s Belmarsh Prison for over four years on no charges as the US is trying to extradite and imprison him for publishing documents obtained by a source, a standard journalistic practice. If Assange is convicted, it would have grave implications for press freedom in the US and around the world.
The Australian lawmakers said in the letter that they were “resolutely of the view that the prosecution and incarceration of the Australian citizen Julian Assange must end.” They expressed support for a cross-party Australian parliamentary delegation that is due to visit Washington next week to lobby for Assange’s freedom.
“It serves no purpose, it is unjust, and we say clearly — as friends should always be honest with friends — that the prolonged pursuit of Mr. Assange wears away at the substantial foundation of regard and respect that Australians have for the justice system of the United States of America,” the MPs said.
The letter is the latest sign that the Australian government is stepping up the pressure on the US to end its persecution of Assange. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected Australia’s concerns when he visited the country in July to further cement the US-Australian military alliance, but Canberra has refused to drop the issue.
After Blinken’s visit, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese insisted he was standing “firm” on the issue. He said the case against Assange “has gone on for too long. Enough is enough.” Albanese will travel to the US for an official state visit at the end of October.