A group of Australian politicians are in Washington, calling for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The group includes Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, Independent MP Monique Ryan and Greens Senator David Shoebridge.
Assange, an Australian citizen, is facing charges relating to thousands of leaked classified (i.e. secret) documents.
What is Wikileaks?
Assange founded the website Wikileaks in 2006.
Wikileaks obtained and published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents.
They revealed details on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including footage of a U.S. air strike that killed civilians.
It was the largest military security breach in U.S. history.
Assange was in a UK prison for breaching bail when the U.S. charged him with espionage (spying) in 2019.
He’s been awaiting possible extradition (forced removal to face charges) while in UK custody ever since.
The U.S. has accused Assange of risking the lives of military personnel by failing to redact (censor) their names.
If convicted, Assange could face life in prison.
The U.S. has previously said he could serve a sentence in an Australian prison.
This year, Australian parliamentarians across the political spectrum signed an open letter calling on the U.S. Attorney-General to allow Assange to return home to Australia.
“We are resolutely of the view that the persecution and incarceration of Australian citizen Julian Assange must end,” it read.
The letter argued the charges against Assange set a “dangerous precedent” for freedom of the press.
Australian politicians are meeting with members of Congress and officials from the State and Justice departments.
The delegation is calling for Assange’s freedom by Christmas.
Speaking outside the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C., Barnaby Joyce told reporters the delegation “did not come here to pick a fight, we came here to present a case and lobby for an outcome.”
Joyce said talks had so far been “encouraging”.
The delegation warned that if the U.S. imprisoned Assange, it would strain the diplomatic relationship between Australia and the U.S.
Greens Senator David Shoebridge said “we’ve made it very clear that the continued prosecution of Julian Assange is not the action of a friend of Australia.”
Independent MP Monique Ryan said Australia feels “really strongly” about freeing Assange, and expected PM Anthony Albanese to “carry the same message to President Biden” when he visits the White House next month.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she’s spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and that the two countries share similar views that “this has gone on too long”.