Two Australian MPs who’ve been to visit Wikileaks founder and keen skateboardist Julian Assange in prison have announced that they think Boris Johnson should be trying to block his extradition to the US.
According to the Guardian, George Christensen and Andrew Wilkie went to see Assange in London’s Belmarsh prison and said he’s “under enormous pressure,” with crumbling mental and physical health. A British journalist who spoke to Assange on Christmas Eve 2019 said he was slurring his words and claimed he was “slowly dying” in prison. The same month, over 100 doctors signed a letter claiming he was too unwell to stand trial, and in need of hospital treatment.
In a press conference outside the prison gates, Christensen said information that will come out in the extradition hearing next week would be very concerning for Australia, and that the Australian government should "be standing up and saying to the UK and the US: â€˜Enough is enough, leave that bloke alone and let him come home.'â€
Wilkie stated that Assange had "done the right thing" when he conspired to hack into the Pentagon's IT network and subsequently published a video of US airmen killing twelve people in an airstrike based on false pretences. Said airmen were shown laughing about the resulting deaths, which included two Reuters staff.
The grand jury in America indicted him on a total of 18 charges, mostly relating to the Espionage Act. They include conspiring to obtain and release sensitive classified documents. Assange declined voluntary extradition to the US in May last year.
"This will establish a precedent that if you are a journalist who does anything that offends any government in the world then you face the very real prospect of being extradited to that country. This is a political case and what is at stake is not just the life of Julian Assange. It is about the future of journalism."
The two MPs spent thirty minutes with Assange at Belmarsh, where he's no longer being held in solitary confinement and is improving in health, according to Wikileaks. They said he'd asked questions about his family and the bushfires in Australia.
Christensen has also written to Boris Johnson, claiming it's unfair that the extradition request for Anne Sacoolas (the woman accused of killing Harry Dunn) was denied and yet Assange's was not.
He said, in classic Aussie fashion:
"I am a big fan of Trump, I am a big fan of BoJo, but I'll tell you what I value more: free speech. There are a lot of Australians on the right and left who think that Julian Assange is a rat bag, that I am a rat bag, but that he should be brought home."
Assange's hearing next week will take place at Woolwich Crown Court, although as ever, the actual process of anything happening is likely to take many months. [Guardian]
This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK, which is gobbling up the news in a different timezone.