July 21, 2024

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Assange release comes after Australian PM brought up case with Biden

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Julian Assange’s impending return to his native Australia follows years of “quiet diplomacy” and public protests as Canberra took advantage of strengthened ties with Washington and London to make the case for the WikiLeaks founder’s release.

Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has raised the issue with officials from US President Joe Biden down, as contacts have intensified under the auspices of the 2021 Aukus deal with Washington and London.

Greg Barns, a lawyer who has worked on the case for 11 years, hailed Albanese’s administration as “the first Australian government to elevate the Assange case to a leader-to-leader level”.

Barns added that there was “no doubt” the Labor government had been instrumental in the plea bargain allowing the Queensland-born activist to walk free.

Under the deal, Assange is set to plead guilty to conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information relating to US national defence. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday before a court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth north of Guam. He is then expected to fly to Australia.

Albanese has long called for Assange to be set free after 12 years of confinement and imprisonment over one of the biggest leaks of classified material in US history. But he has also faced increasing pressure to secure Assange’s release, ranging across the Australian political spectrum, from the leftwing Greens to the rural National party.

The Labor government’s emphasis on “quiet diplomacy” contrasts with the previous prime minister, Scott Morrison, who adopted a more assertive approach to international affairs.

There have been signs of strains. At a meeting in Brisbane last July, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, standing next to Australia’s foreign and defence ministers, said Assange’s case had been discussed…

2024-06-25 08:23:26

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