Politicians, lawyers, journalists, whistle blowers and human rights defenders have pleaded with Prime Minister Albanese to step up his efforts to free imprisoned Australian publisher and WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange.
Experts testified at the Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney on 4 March, an event organised by Progressive International in partnership with the Wau Holland Foundation and co-chaired by media identities Mark Davis and Mary Kostakidis.
Wife Stella Assange implored the Prime Minister to use his power with Australia’s ally the United States to demand the release of her husband. Assange has now been arbitrarily detained for 13 years, four of those on remand in London’s super-max Belmarsh Prison, awaiting permission to appeal extradition to the US on espionage charges.
“The Prime Minister, more than anyone, holds Julian’s fate in his hands. And so, I ask the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to take Julian’s fate in his hands and bring him home to us, bring him home to our kids, bring him home to me and end his suffering,” said Mrs Assange.
Eminent speakers at the Tribunal included whistle blowers, former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou and Australian army intelligence lawyer David McBride, former Foreign Minister in the Gillard Government Bob Carr, Greek politician Yanis Varoufakis and sitting cross-benchers: ALP’s Josh Wilson, Senator David Shoebridge, Dr Monique Ryan and Bridget Archer.
Testimony was heard about abuse of legal process and the dangerous precedent the Assange case has on press freedom from human rights lawyers Bernard Collaery, Kellie Tranter and Assange’s legal counsel Jen Robinson as well as MEAA President Karen Percy, award-winning journalists Kerry O’Brien and Dean Yates, former Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad.
Yates said about the now infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video of the US airstrike on the streets of Baghdad that killed two of his Reuters staff: “ Mr Assange could be imprisoned for half a century alone, just for publishing Rules Of Engagement that showed the attack broke international law. Yet the United States didn’t prosecute the men who pulled the trigger or anyone else in the chain of command. It didn’t prosecute those who did the bogus investigation into the attack or engaged in the cover-up and lied about it.”
Also appearing was academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert who spent 804 days in an Iranian prison on espionage charges. She was released in a prisoner swap in 2022 after the Australian Government intervened in her case. “I’m very grateful and very thankful to the Australian Government for securing my freedom two-and-a-half years into an unjust 10-year prison sentence for crimes that I did not commit. Julian is, similarly, charged with ludicrous crimes of which he is not guilty. He has suffered long enough. I call on the Australian Government to demonstrate the same resoluteness that they applied to my own case to secure Julian Assange’s freedom. Julian is one of us. He’s a brave person who stood up and spoke up for what is right,” said Ms Moore-Gilbert.