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Row Breaks Out Over Assange in Australian Senate

Tuesday 4 April 2023, by siawi3


Row Breaks Out Over Assange in Australian Senate

April 3, 2023

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was asked point blank whether the prime minister raised Julian Assange with Joe Biden in San Diego last month. Chaos ensued.

(Photo collage: Cathy Vogan)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Greens Party Senator David Shoebridge asked the foreign minister a direct question in Parliament last Thursday: Did the Australian prime minister raise the case of Julian Assange with the president of the United States last month when they met and did he ask for the charges against Assange to be dropped?

Wong did not answer the question. She said Australia could not intervene in the legal process of another country and sarcastically asked Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who spoke out, whether he wanted the Australian military to intervene against a court.

In the face of Wong’s comments, Assange’s father, John Shipton, and his wife, Stella Assange, have continuously argued that the case is political and needs a political, and not a legal resolution.

Despite Wong’s statement, the Australian government has through diplomatic intervention won the release of six Australian citizens from foreign jails since 2007: David Hicks (U.S./Guantanamo), Melinda Taylor (Libya), James Ricketson (Cambodia), Sean Turnell (Myanmar), Kylie Moore-Gilbert (Iran), and Peter Greste (Egypt).

The legal process in Turnell’s case, for instance, was still ongoing as, like Assange, he had only been charged, but not convicted. Australian foreign affairs minister at the time, Marise Payne, issued a statement demanding Turnell’s release, something the Labor government refused to do for Assange. Payne said Turnell :

“… is a highly regarded adviser and member of the academic community in Australia … We called in the Myanmar ambassador into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise our concerns in relation to this, and we will continue to do that and press strongly for Professor Turnell’s release.”

The Hicks case is starker. He was never put on trial by the U.S. after years in Guantanamo. Yet Australia intervened to free him while that legal process played out.

The row over Assange continued on Twitter as citizens weighed in. (Tweets follow video of the confrontation in Parliament):