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  • Internet, News - Written by on Thursday, May 31, 2012 15:57 - 16 Comments

    Australian protests erupt over Wikileaks’ Assange

    news A series of protests will be held around the nation this afternoon to demand the Federal Government protect Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from potential extradition to the United States, despite statements by Foreign Minister Bob Carr to the effect that the Australian Government has done his utmost for the Australian citizen.

    Overnight in the UK, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that Assange could be extradited to Sweden to face accusations of sex offences. Assange’s supporters have regularly highlighted the danger of the Wikileaks founder being extradited from Sweden to the United States, where the leaked emails from US private intelligence firm Stratfor have suggested a grand jury has already been drawn up to indict Assange over his Wikileaks activities. Assange has two weeks to appeal the UK case.

    Flagging the protests around Australia this afternoon in a statement, Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam, who has been a long-term supporter of Assange, said the Government had a duty to protect the human rights of all Australian citizens, and to provide them with legal and consular assistance.

    “The Government has done almost nothing to protect Mr Assange’s rights, have delayed and frustrated attempts to discover the truth surrounding the US campaign against him, and must enable his safe return home,” said Ludlam.”

    “Wikileaks is being punished through legal attacks and a financial blockade by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and others for doing nothing more than what good journalists and publishers do: revealing the truth no matter how embarrassing to governments and powerful corporations. In Australia we have seen bipartisan political indifference on behalf of the old parties, indifference which on closer examination is outright hostility towards WikiLeaks.”

    “Yesterday’s verdict in the UK Supreme Court provides for another fortnight of legal limbo. It is another two weeks in which the important work of this publishing organisation remains almost paralysed. Whatever the outcome of the appeals over the next fortnight, Mr Assange is not out of danger until the threat of extradition to the United States is entirely removed.” The Australian protests will be held in capital cities, as well as other cities such as Townsville, Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton and Townsville.

    However, the Government has regularly stated that it has done its best by Assange.

    The Government’s hands were currently tied when it came to Assange’s fate, Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said in mid-April, with the maverick Internet publisher’s Australian citizenship mattering little in the scheme of Swedish legal process unless a formal extradition request was made to shift him out of the European Union. According to Roxon, if an extradition request was filed to shift Assange to the US, Australia would be notified and have the opportunity to challenge the issue. However, the Attorney-General said she would not pre-make a decision on what the Government would do in that case, as the issue would include a variety of factors such as what the request was about, what penalties might apply and so on.

    However, one of Assange’s lawyers, Australia-born human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said at the time that if Assange was taken to Sweden, the Australian Government could intervene at that point from having the activist extradited to the US, echoing comments by the Greens, which has demanded that the Government intervene in Assange’s case.

    Today, in a press conference, Foreign Minister Bob Carr reportedly said no Australian had been given more consular support in a comparable period than Assange, and that he was monitoring the case closely. Carr added that there was no indication that the US was looking to indict Assange.

    However, Ludlam for one isn’t happy with the Government’s answers on the matter. “Today in Senate Estimates I asked Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and his department if the Australian Government had sought advice on whether the US Government is seeking to extradite Julian Assange,” Ludlam said earlier this week. “I was repeatedly told that the Australian government “was not aware of any evidence” of a sealed indictment on Assange.”

    “This is fairly simple code for ‘nothing has officially been put in writing’. Through the use of highly selective and awkward language, the Government is attempting plausible deniability instead of going into bat for an Australian citizen in trouble. This is a matter that the whole world is watching.”

    Additionally, Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, has reportedly also been active on the issue, stating in an interview on the ABC’s Radio Australia network in mid-April that significant breaches of the Swedish legal system had already taken place.

    “… the fact is that Sweden has breached all its own laws on this case from day one and the Australian Government has said nothing. Flagrant abuses, abuses not only of police and prosecutorial procedure, but human rights as well,” Christine Assange said, adding that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon had been presented with a list of those breaches.

    Referring to statements made by Roxon, Christine Assange added: ” … she’s actually stated here that she didn’t know if it’s easier or not to be extradited from Sweden. She full well knows it’s easier, because Scott Ludlam took it to the Senate a number of months ago asking at the very least that what the Australian Government should do is protect him from that Temporary Surrender Regime which has absolutely no public process on it, okay? It’s a tick-box.”

    Other minor Australian political parties such as the Pirate Party of Australia have also been actively commenting on the issue.

    “The Australian Government’s continued and willful ignorance of US intentions to extradite Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, possibly on the grounds of espionage and conspiracy, is completely unacceptable. The government must be more active in seeking to ensure the safety of Mr. Assange,” said Simon Frew, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia, in a statement issued today. “Our continued alliance with the United States should not be at the expense of the rights of Australian citizens.”

    “There are a number of concerning issues with the legal process,” Frew added. “The Supreme Court used the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a document regarding the interpretation and operation of treaties between states, as a basis in their determination. This had not been raised by either side during the proceedings of the appeal. Legal analysis seems to indicate this may give Mr. Assange and his team opportunity to re-open the case. In Sweden the case had been dropped by one prosecutor and picked up by another. The Swedish legal system requires sexual assault cases be held in private, where we expect the right to scrutinise any legal process to see that justice is actually done. Consequently Mr Assange will be held incommunicado and tried in secret once he arrives there.”

    “We have to do what we can to support Julian, and organisations like Wikileaks, so we urge everyone who feels the same way to come out to protests around Australia and the world. It is important that we reiterate to our government that whistleblowers and conduit publishing organisations like Wikileaks are essential to the function of any modern democracy and that stronger protections for both are necessary,” he concluded.

    opinion/analysis
    To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this whole process at the moment. Is Julian Assange an innocent victim of political manipulation, with dodgy goings on in Sweden dragging him into a compromised legal process and the giant shadow of the United State’s eagle wings looming over him, waiting to swoop in and snatch him up in barbed claws? Or is this legal process proceeding in a perfectly normal manner, bringing to justice an individual who has actually committed illegal acts? I’m not sure, but I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    The one thing I am sure of is that this saga is not going to end any time soon, and that the whole process is likely only furthering Assange’s overall aims. There could not be more publicity on this case right now, and that is something I am sure Assange is very happy about. That, in itself, makes me question his motives. I do not think the Wikileaks founder is as clean sparkly white an individual as Robertson, in particular, makes him out to be. Having said that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing — our society needs all kinds of people to make it work, including rabblerousers.

    Image credit: Circulated online

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    1. Marcus
      Posted 31/05/2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink |

      I dont see Obama risking bringing Assange back into the US to face US charges during a vote season. it’ll piss his youth base off too much.

    2. Glenn
      Posted 31/05/2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink |

      From what i can understand, if England had have judged his appeal in English he was have won, but they had to translate a phrase to another language, and then translate its meaning back to english so they could get away with rejecting his appeal.

      England is prepared to reinterpret the language they spred around the world to corrupt their legal and political system, all to make sure they get rid of him

      It stinks.

    3. Simon
      Posted 31/05/2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink |

      “It stinks”?

      Shakespeare put it better in Hamlet
      “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

    4. Rowan
      Posted 31/05/2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink |

      No matter if he is innocent of the charges or not he will be found guilty anyway. The US cannot afford for Assange to have an accident or similar, it would turn him into a martyr so they will make sure he is found guilty so he will fry in the court of public opinion. Then the US can have their way with him without the heat.
      Mostly unlike Britain, Sweden is very susceptable to US pressure so the US can buy witnesses, judicary etc. Unfortunately they have a lot of power.

    5. Tom
      Posted 31/05/2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink |

      Your analysis is wrong, Mr Assange is not benefiting from this publicity. Think a little harder about who’s interests this entire process benefits.

      Under house arrest and tracked for 2 years in the UK, extradited to solitary and secret trial for sex offenses in Sweden, extradition request to the US will land before he is next free. Sweden is known for fast tracking extradition and even extrajudicial renditions with their sharp political move to the right in recent years. Solitary pretrial detention awaits Julian in the US, followed by a trial in a militarised region of the US.

      Julian wants publicity from crushing bastards with the truth of the evil lies and deeds, not from fighting sex crime allegations and political persecution for the next decade.

      • Posted 31/05/2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink |

        “Mr Assange is not benefiting from this publicity”

        A factually inaccurate statement.

        • Tom
          Posted 31/05/2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink |

          Yes he is getting publicity from this but at the expense of being able to run Wikileaks freely, think of how fast Wikileaks was rising before his house arrest and extradition fight began.

          So this doesn’t equate to good publicity unless you’re of the view all publicity is good publicity even when you’re being accused of r-ape.

          It’s just my opinion he’s not benefiting from this, but imagine if this was about an extradition to the US for his publishing work with Wikileaks and the Swedish allegations never existed, imagine how much more that would outrage the public. Instead the Swedish allegations places people advocating for greater freedom of speech/press/information in the awful position of having to defend someone accused of sexual assault crimes. Julian has limited freedom now, when he lands in Sweden he’ll have none for a very long time.

          I think this is just the dragging through the mud before the US begins the real fun.

          • Zwan
            Posted 02/06/2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink |

            Ignoring the fact he new has his own TV Show.

    6. MarkD
      Posted 01/06/2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink |

      I see that all of the commentators have swallowed the conspiracy theories.

      Trying to elevate Assange to folk hero status that exempts him from the laws of perfectly reasonable and civilised countries is an insult to those countries. It’s also an insult to those who know some of his history.

      Australians certainly get affronted when others question their legal system (c.f. Gabe Watson), but it’s ok to cast aspersions on others and question their integrity? I smell hypocrisy.

      • Duke
        Posted 01/06/2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink |

        I get affronted when I’m told I get affronted. The Australian politico/legal system is as screwed as anyone elses. Pray tell us the parts of his ‘history’ that so affront you, the facts not the rumours and innuendoes please.

        Now if you had sex with two women who long after the event found out about each other, brought vague accusations about ‘minor rape’, had these thrown out by a prosecutor, shopped around until they found another prosecutor, and then you were removed without charge to their country with the probability of a trial closed to everyone…

        …well, jees Mark, I’m sure you would be a happy little vegemite eh?

        Of course, Sweden is perfectly reasonable and civilised, try a search of the compromised ‘legal’ judges that have run the cases against the Pirate Bay, the system is clean as a whistle… not…

      • PeterA
        Posted 01/06/2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink |

        Agreed. Assange is not a saint, but there are many weird quirks to the way sex offences are treated in Sweden.

        There are many quirks to the way the USA is treated in Sweden.

        Finally, the case is being handled with many quirks (according to external observation).

        People mostly want him to get a fair deal, the same as anyone else that is accused of a crime across international borders.

        Right now, he is afraid of rendition to the USA. Regardless of his crimes in Sweden, no one deserves torture in Guantanamo Bay. Not even the worst criminal offender does. That is why we are worried about his extradition to Sweden.

        The solution is simple however. The UK asks for a binding agreement that Assange will only get tried for specific crimes if extradited. And once he has served time or he case is over he MUST be returned to the UK. If they don’t comply with the agreement then the UK never extradites someone to Sweden ever again.

    7. Dawesi
      Posted 01/06/2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink |

      What the man did, and is accused of (two different boxes) contravenes normal decency and community standards.

      You don’t steal information. So if I steal your car and use it for a good cause (IMHO) it’s ok? What if I kidnapped your child so that they could help a starving person eat, does that make it ok? Wikileaks is a joke.

      He’s right up there with Google for selling other people’s private information.

      His main supporters support him because of his rebellious nature, not because of what he has done.

      If you do the crime, you do the time.

      • James
        Posted 01/06/2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink |

        You cannot make the comparison between stealing a car because you think it’s okay, and releasing a video that exposes the slaughter of innocent civilians.

        Although one can make the argument that Wikileaks are ‘in possession of stolen information’, they don’t steal information. It’s leaked/provided to them by anonymous sources.

      • Tom
        Posted 01/06/2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink |

        If you have evidence Julian personally stole the information his organisation has publish the US gov would really like to hear about it. He didn’t steal it, it was giving to Wikileaks by whistleblower/s because the whistleblower/s believe a serious injustice had occurred in this world.

        You seem to be saying it was wrong of Google to collect personal information because people have a right to privacy and at the same time imply governments therefore have the same eternal right to privacy, they don’t. Governments have no right to keep secret the things they do for all time. You simply cannot hold governments accountable when they operate in secrecy and when you let them operate in secret they commit atrocities.

        History now records the deaths of an additional 20,000 Iraqi people because of the Iraq war logs leaked by Wikileaks, bringing the total death toll from that war alone to some where around 115,000 human beings. Those were real people… and they’re dead now. At least thanks to Wikileaks we have a better idea of just how many people have been killed by these wars.

    8. midspace
      Posted 04/06/2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |

      What I don’t understand, is exactly why Sweden want to extradite Mr. Assange (excluding any foreign motivations). From what I’ve head, they only want to “question him”. He hasn’t been charged with anything.
      Is there something really wrong with Sweden or their laws, that they cannot send a State Prosecutor over to the UK, and formally interview him there?
      Are they that hard up that they can’t buy a ticket on an aircraft, and instead waste tax money on extradition proceedings?




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