Politics

Assange ‘free to return home’ if he wins extradition battle, Australian PM

Sydney, Australia, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “free” to return home to Australia if he wins his legal battle in British courts against his extradition to the United States.

The remarks by the prime minister came a day after District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in Britain ruled that Assange – who was born in Townsville, Queensland in 1971 – cannot be extradited to the US due to the risk of him committing suicide in America where he faces espionage charges.

The Australian prime minister did not comment on the court decision, which is subject to appeal, but said Assange would be able to travel home if he wishes to after he won the court case.

“I note the decision overnight and like any other Australian I understand that is subject to appeal. Assuming that all turns out, he is like any other Australian, he is free to return home to Australia if he wishes,” Morrison told 3AW radio.

“He is going through those processes, consular support has consistently been offered to Assange,” he said, adding it was for him to decide to return to Australia when legal proceedings and processes concluded.

The 49-year-old digital journalist is wanted in the US to face espionage charges for publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents detailing military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2010 WikiLeaks storm.

The Australian citizen could be jailed for up to 175 years if he was extradited and convicted in the US.

Judge Baraitser dismissed the defense allegations that the extradition request was politically motivated and that the journalist would not have a fair trial in the US.

The judge will rule on Wednesday on granting provisional freedom to Assange who has already received an asylum offer from Mexico.

The British Prosecutor’s Office, on behalf of the US administration, has indicated that it would appeal the verdict before the High Court of London within 14 days.

Last June, Assange’s father, John Shipton, said in an interview with EFE that the Morrison government of Australia, a historic US ally, should mediate with the British government for the release of his son.

Initially arrested in 2010 in the UK at the request of Sweden for a rape case that has already been shelved, Assange has spent the last 10 years in confinement.

First, he was under house arrest. He then took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The embassy withdrew his political asylum in 2019. EFE-EPA

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