Julian Assange ‘free to return home’ to Australia if extradition to US is blocked – PM
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange will be “free to return home” to Australia once his legal proceedings in the United Kingdom have ended.
Morrison’s remarks come amid pressure from Australian politicians, who have called on the country’s government to ask the Trump administration to pardon Assange and end its legal campaign against him. While Coalition backbencher George Christensen and South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick called directly for a presidential pardon, the opposing Labor Party said the government should “do what it can to draw a line under this matter.”
Speaking to local radio station 2GB, Morrison stated that “should the appeal fail, obviously he would be able to return to Australia like any other Australian.” However, the prime minister appeared to back away from directly interfering in the process or making a plea to the US president, saying, “The justice system is making its way and we’re not a party to that.”
On Monday, a London court ruled that the UK could not extradite Assange to the US, because of concerns that it would be “oppressive by reason of mental harm” and could result in him attempting to take his own life. The US Department of Justice has 14 days to lodge an appeal against the judgment and has expressed its intention to do so.
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Assange is wanted over an 18-count indictment that stems from the publishing of thousands of classified documents on WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011. If the US convicted him on all charges, he could face up to 175 years in prison, according to his lawyers, although, Washington has argued the sentence would be more likely to be between four and six years.
The trial has gained international attention, as Assange’s lawyers have argued the case is a politically motivated prosecution against a journalist for revealing evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the US government abroad. The US has not sought to play down this accusation, repeatedly asserting that the leaks were criminal and endangered lives. Still, supporters of the whistleblower maintain Washington is simply seeking revenge for their publication.
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Source:RT World News