Diplomatic cables reveal Australia expects U.S. to charge Julian Assange
Declassified diplomatic cables from Australia’s embassy in Washington D.C., obtained through freedom of information requests filed by The Sydney Morning Herald, reveal that Australian officials have already begun laying the groundwork for the U.S. to pursue charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The cables show that diplomats in Assange’s home country anticipate receipt of an extradition request for Assange once a secret U.S. grand jury wraps up its investigation. They expect it so fully that embassy staff even reached out to U.S. officials for “early advice” on the potential indictment and extradition request.
The American response was redacted, the paper noted, “on the grounds that disclosure could ’cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth.'” Other material blacked out of the cables pertains to the prosecution of Pvt. Bradley Manning, who U.S. military prosecutors say participated in a conspiracy with WikiLeaks to steal and publish classified information.
The Herald also added that diplomatic briefings given to Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and Prime Minister Julia Gillard showed they have “no in-principle objection to extradition.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Thursday that there is “no information to indicate” that the U.S. is behind Assange’s most pressing and current legal woes. “It is an issue among the countries involved and we are not planning to inject ourselves,” spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. “With regard to the charge that the U.S. was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely,” she added.
Assange remains on lockdown inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s been granted asylum but cannot leave due to a British police blockade. He’s wanted in Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual assault, which he believes to be a rouse designed to imprison him ahead of a potential prosecution in the U.S. for espionage or other crimes.
It’s not clear whether British authorities will stage a SWAT-style police raid on Ecuador’s embassy, but they’ve threatened to — even though it would be widely viewed as a brazen violation of international law.