Stella Assange thanks Australian lawmakers for WikiLeaks founder’s freedom

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Stella Assange thanked the group of lawmakers who campaigned for her husband, WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeShe will be released during her visit on Thursday to Australia’s Parliament House, where political leaders disagreed over how much the convicted criminal should be welcomed back to his homeland.

Stella Assange said: “Julian feels very happy and very grateful to the Australian people, to the members of Parliament and the government, as well as to the opposition who came together to express the need for his release.”


Stella Assange speaks at a news conference at Parliament House after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to Australia, in Canberra, Thursday, June 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Assange has not made any public comment since his arrival In Australia on Wednesday After pleading guilty to obtaining and publishing US military secrets in a deal with prosecutors at the US Department of Justice ended His 14-year legal battle For freedom.

The parliamentary group to bring Julian Assange home began with a handful of federal lawmakers in 2019 and has expanded to 47 – one of five of Canberra’s total – as consensus grows that a trial Because of the WikiLeaks publication Nearly half a million documents related to the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010 took a long time.

His lawyers now want to channel this public and political support behind a campaign to pardon Assange.

“President (Joe) Biden or any subsequent president could, in my opinion, pardon Julian Assange,” lawyer Barry Pollack said.

However, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Thursday that Biden is not considering pardoning Assange.

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A mural showing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the wall of an apartment building on a street in the town of Plashikha outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

But while Australian lawmakers largely agreed it was time to repatriate Assange, they disagreed on whether he deserved the same level of support as Australians recently released from arbitrary detention in China, Iran and Myanmar thanks to government intervention.

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is credited with the diplomatic coup that enabled Assange to be released from a London prison to travel to London. Northern Mariana IslandsUS Commonwealth of the Western Pacific where he pleaded guilty to one count under the Espionage Act.

With the five years Assange spent in Belmarsh Prison credited with fighting extradition, he was allowed to return to Australia without serving any further prison sentence.

Opposition lawmakers say Albanese risked damaging relations with the United States, Australia’s most important security partner, by calling Assange moments after the former computer hacker arrived in Canberra.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said: “It is neither necessary nor appropriate for Anthony Albanese to welcome Julian Assange home on the same day he admitted committing acts of espionage.” But Stella Assange said her husband should not be charged at all.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures after landing at Royal Australian Air Force Base Fairbairn in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

He pleaded guilty to practicing journalism. She said the case criminalizes journalism, journalistic activity, and the ordinary journalistic activity of gathering and disseminating news.

Assange accused Receiving and disseminating war logs and diplomatic cables that included details of US military mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. His activities received an outpouring of support from press freedom advocates, who heralded his role in highlighting military behavior that would otherwise be hidden from view, and warned of its chilling effect on journalists. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by US forces in Baghdad, killing 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.

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Assange was celebrated by supporters as a champion of transparency, but national security hawks criticized him, insisting that his behavior put lives at risk and went far beyond the bounds of traditional journalistic duties.

In response to a question in a press conference after Assange’s return, Albanese refused to say whether he considered him a journalist being unfairly pursued by the American authorities.

“I think there will still be different views on Julian Assange and his activism,” Albanese said.

“My role as prime minister was to say firmly that whatever people’s views, there is no purpose served by this continued imprisonment,” Albanese added.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong distanced the government from Assange’s campaign to demand a pardon for the crime.

“This is a matter for Mr. Assange and his legal team, and the decision on this matter is a matter for the United States,” Wong said.

“What makes us happy is that he is home,” she added. “We thought his imprisonment had been prolonged.”

Stella Assange, the South African-born lawyer who married her husband in prison in 2022, has offered little clues about his future career.

“He plans to swim in the ocean every day. He plans to sleep in a real bed. He plans to taste real food and he plans to enjoy his freedom,” she said.

She added: “Julian is the most principled man I know. He will always stand up for human rights and speak out against injustice. He can choose how to do that, because he is a free man.”

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Associated Press journalist Aamer Madhani in Washington, D.C., contributed.

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