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.
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):
Australian citizens "rescued" from unjust "legal" proceedings due to public pressure and Australian government intervention: David Hicks (US), Melinda Taylor (Libya), James Ricketson (Cambodia), Kylie Moore-Gilbert (Iran), Peter Greste (Egypt)… But not Julian Assange? pic.twitter.com/gr9rTi0zdo
— Bean? (@SomersetBean) March 30, 2023
Even John Howard was capable of successfully pressuring the US government to get David Hicks out of Guantanamo Bay & let him come back home. Seems the current government can’t even manage that when it comes to #Assange https://t.co/BNiZJ9kdXx
— Andrew Bartlett (@AndrewBartlett) March 31, 2023
The whole point, of course, is that these "legal processes" are not legitimate. If they were, nobody would be clamoring for his release. The whole point of diplomacy is to go in when processes fail and when processes are as egregiously cruel as they are here.
— Dirty Leftie (@IxatDnats) March 31, 2023
Australia managed to get the US to get David Hicks out of Guantanamo Bay. (And Peter Greste out of an Egyptian jail, Kylie Moore-Gilbert out an Iranian jail & Sean Turnell out of a Myanmar jail). But somehow Assange is stuck – in maximum security, solitary confinement. A disgrace
— Andrew Bartlett (@AndrewBartlett) March 30, 2023
Julian Assange holds Australian citizenship.
Other claims are matters of political belief.
As with our intervention re David Hicks, the time Assange has spent in detention now exceeds a reasonable penalty for the crimes alleged, & he shld be released on humanitarian grounds. https://t.co/sQVGxZhUPI
— Australia Defence Association (@austdef) March 30, 2023
Is Wong aware that her sacrosanct rule of law can sometimes be abused by authorities? Or does that concept not exist in her world view or only when dealing with authoritarian regimes?
— Susanne Maier (@gerge42) March 30, 2023