National Security

Liberal Senators declare Julian Assange 'no hero,' as Wikileaks founder on cusp of freedom following US plea deal

June 27, 2024

Thursday 27 June 2024
Max Melzer

Two Liberal Senators have declared "Julian Assange is no hero," after news broke the Wikileaks founder may soon be allowed to return to Australia following a plea deal with authorities in the United States.

Assange, who spent more than a decade detained overseas, first rose to prominence in 2010 when he published almost half a million classified US military and diplomatic cables, in full, on the Wikileaks website.

The publication sparked a criminal investigation in the US, with former US President Barack Obama labelling the dump a "deplorable act" that gravely endangered the lives of hundreds of people named in the documents.

On Monday, news broke Assange had agreed to a plea deal, in which he would plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents in exchange for freedom.

Reacting to the news, shadow home affairs minister James Paterson was quick to remind Australians the Wikileaks founder had committed "a serious crime," as he welcomed the US' decision to show leniency in the case.

"Julian Assange is no hero, but it is a welcome thing that this has finally come to an end," he told Sky News Australia.

"Note, it has come to an end because Mr Assange has finally agreed to plead guilty to the charges against him, which are very serious national security charges.

"He could have entered into a plea deal at any point during his long incarceration and while it's true, as many people say, that this has gone on for a long time, the reason why it's gone on for a long time is that he was evading lawful extradition requests by hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy and then challenging them through every level of the UK courts, which he's entitled to do.

"It is a credit to the United States, as a rule of law democracy, that they're showing such leniency towards someone accused of such a serious crime, and frankly, it dispels the myth of the United States critics that it is such an evil regime."

Senator Paterson was backed up by shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash, who offered a scathing assessment of the Wikileaks founder's conduct.

"Let us be very clear. I do not condone what Julian Assange did. He is not a hero. He is not a journalist. He is not a whistleblower. He is someone who, by his very actions, put the lives of Australians in danger," she said.

"Quite frankly, to see elements of the press for him as a hero, as a journalist, as a whistleblower, I find incredibly disappointing because his conduct, as I say it, put Australian lives in danger and as far as I'm concerned, that is unacceptable."

Until Monday, Assange had been held in the United Kingdom's Belmarsh Prison, having previously spent seven years hiding in London's Ecuadorian embassy.

The Wikileaks founder had been fleeing a Swedish arrest warrant on rape charges when he was detained in the UK before breaching bail and seeking asylum in the embassy building.

At the time, Assange claimed the rape allegations were an excuse to deport him to the US in connection with the 2010 leaks.

However, prosecutors in Sweden maintained they had no plans to deport the Australian national and were eventually forced to drop the charges without ever having the opportunity to question Assange.

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