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PM's words offer hope to Assange faithful

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Julian Assange is still detained in Belmarsh prison (Image by Jose Mesa | Flickr)

In Parliament recently, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave his most powerful statement yet in response to a question about Julian Assange's persecution, writes Dr John Jiggens.

ON 30 NOVEMBER in Parliament, Independent "Teal" member for Kooyong Monique Ryan asked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese what his Government was doing to support Julian Assange.

Ryan stated: 

“Journalists obtaining and publishing sensitive information is in the public interest and essential to democracy. Julian Assange is still detained in Belmarsh prison, charged by a foreign government with acts of journalism.” 

She asked the Prime Minister bluntly:

 “Will the government intervene to bring Mr Assange home?” 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded with his most powerful statement yet on the Assange question: 

Some time ago, I made my point that enough is enough. It is time for this matter to be brought to a conclusion. The Government will continue to act in a diplomatic way. But can I assure the member for Kooyong that I have raised this personally with representatives of the United States Government.

 

My position is clear and has been made clear to the U.S. Administration. I will continue to advocate as I did recently in meetings that I have held. I thank the member for her question and for her genuine interest in this, along with so many Australian citizens.

I asked John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father – who recently spoke in Brisbane – what he thought of Anthony Albanese’s comments.

He replied in his characteristic generous way by first praising Monique Ryan for her question — adding he thought she would make a magnificent contribution to parliament as she had done in her previous medical career. 

Shipton said:

“As for Anthony Albanese, he stands firmly alongside 88 per cent [referring to a recent poll] of the Australian population in firmly requesting that Julian be returned home to Australia to his family and home, and for this, we give our very warm support.” 

Monique Ryan’s question came just days after five leading media outlets released an open letter denouncing the U.S. prosecution of Julian Assange.

The letter, from editors and publishers of The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País, which had been media partners with WikiLeaks in publicising the Chelsea Manning material, warned that the Assange indictment sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to undermine America's First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

The letter declared:

'Publishing is not a crime.'

John Shipton was pleased with this development too. For many years, he said, the most important institutions in legacy media have abandoned Julian — in fact, assisted in bringing about the decline in Julian’s public persona.

Said Shipton:

Legacy media, making such an important statement from the most important media outlets in the Western world — particularly 'The New York Times' which seem to be very close to the White House and to the Democratic Party – coming from 'The New York Times', this is vital assistance in bringing Julian home to Australia. The persecution of Julian Assange by the United Kingdom and the United States must stop. 

Others central to the Assange campaign also commented on Albanese's response to Ryan's question.

Said Gabriel Shipton, brother of Julian Assange:

“Finally the Prime Minister has publicly called for this endless persecution of Australian publisher Julian Assange to be brought to an end. Australians will be keenly watching to see how the U.S. reacts and if it will respect the calls of the Australian public and Government to show mercy to Australian citizen Julian Assange."

Assange campaign legal advisor Greg Barns SC declared:

When an Australian prime minister raises concerns about an Australian citizen’s treatment by the U.S., it is a serious matter, given the strength of the alliance between the two countries. It is clear that Mr Albanese understands the injustice of the Assange case. Australians rightly expect their government to intervene in cases where Australians are detained overseas in unjust circumstances.

Said Assange campaign solicitor Stephen Kenny:

It was reassuring to hear the words of the Prime Minister. However, words need to be backed by action and we would hope that the Prime Minister’s representation has been heard in the United States. Action from the United States will determine if our Prime Minister has any influence in our relationship with the United States. For Julian’s sake, I sincerely hope he does.

Dr John Jiggens is a writer and journalist currently working in the community newsroom at Bay-FM in Byron Bay.

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