Australian MP to visit Julian Assange after tabling historic petition in parliament

Julian Assange
John McEvoy

Australian MP Andrew Wilkie has announced that he will travel to London this week to visit WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison. On 10 February, Wilkie also tabled a “massive petition” in defence of Assange in Australia’s parliament.

Visiting Assange in Belmarsh

On 12 February, Wilkie shared a video announcing his plans to visit Assange at his own expense:

 

The independent MP said the purpose of his visit is:

to check on Julian’s health and welfare, to see firsthand the circumstances of his incarceration, and to reassure Julian that although he doesn’t have the support of the Australian Government, he certainly does have the support of a great many people right around the world, especially here in Australia.

The Australian government came under international pressure after over 100 medical doctors wrote to the prime minister and foreign secretary to express serious concerns about Assange’s health.

Wilkie continued:

If [the extradition request] does go ahead, not only would he face 175 years in prison, but the precedent would be set for all Australians, and particularly for journalists, that they are at risk of being extradited to any country they offend.

Assange’s extradition hearings will begin on Monday 24 February, and are expected to conclude around June.

Historic petition

On 10 February, Wilkie also tabled one of the largest petitions in Australian parliamentary history.

The petition, which was signed by over 270,000 people worldwide, read:

If we allow Julian Assange (multi-awarded journalist) who is not a USA citizen and who was not in the USA when he published news to be extradited to the USA to face 175 years imprisonment and possible execution, then we no longer live in a democratic society.

And speaking to parliament, Wilkie added:

That the perpetrator of those war crimes, America, is now seeking to extradite Mr Assange to face 17 counts of espionage and one of hacking is unjust in the extreme and arguably illegal under British law.

As his website explains, Wilkie resigned “from the Office of National Assessments (ONA) on 11 March 2003 in protest over the Iraq war”, becoming “the only serving intelligence official in Australia, the UK and US to resign publicly before the invasion”.

The distance between Australia’s parliament in Canberra and Belmarsh is some 17,000km, while the distance between the UK’s parliament and Belmarsh is some 17km. There seems to be no evidence of any sitting UK MP visiting Assange this year.

Featured image via screengrab/60MinutesAustralia

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