Sarah Palin better watch out.
Under Australian law, inciting violence is a serious crime: an offense which could even trigger the prosecution of members of the US political class and mainstream media who called for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to his attorney.
Comments by Robert Stary, Assange’s Melbourne-based lawyer, were carried in the US by a Friday broadcast of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
“Our main concern is really the possible extradition to the US,” he said. “We’ve been troubled by the sort of rhetoric that has come out of various commentators and principally Republican politicians — Sarah Palin and the like — saying Mr. Assange should be executed, assassinated.”
Stary added: “Certainly if Sarah Palin or any of those other politicians come to Australia, for whatever purpose, then we can initiate a private prosecution, and that’s what we intend to do.”
In the fallout from WikiLeaks and other major newspapers around the world setting about publishing a trove of leaked US diplomatic cables, numerous figures in politics and the media came out strongly against Assange. Even Vice President Joe Biden joined the fray, suggesting Assange was a “high tech terrorist.”
But for Fox News employees Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and others paid by the Republican television network, the rhetoric was a bit more extreme.
Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who’s long professed to be Christian, claimed during a Nov. book signing that he wanted to see Assange and the leaker “executed” for their actions. Huckabee did not issue similar calls for employees of publications like The New York Times or The Guardian, which at the time had published more US diplomatic cables than WikiLeaks.
Palin, similarly, wrote on her Facebook page that Assange should be pursued “with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders” — the implication being that the US military should assassinate him in person or by remote.
Conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly has also called for the leaker to be executed, but stopped short of calling for violence against Assange.
Likewise, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) suggested that WikiLeaks should be designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the Secretary of State. His call was echoed by the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who called Assange a “terrorist” and said the US should “change the law” in order to pursue him if current statutes did not permit it.
Responding to the calls for violence, Assange called Fox News employees “shock jocks” who merely sought to promote themselves by making extreme statements in the press.
“If we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people,” he said during a Dec. interview with the left-leaning MSNBC television network.
“That is incitement to commit murder,” Assange continued. “That is an offense. When people call for illegal, deliberate assassination and kidnapping of others, they should be held to account. They should be charged for incitement to commit murder.”
Following a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, where a lone gunman put a bullet in a Democratic congresswoman’s head and killed six others, Palin and other right-wing figures came under intense criticism for their frequent use of firearm imagery and rhetoric in political discourse.
While most Americans told pollsters that Palin was in no way responsible for the shootings, calls to tone down violent rhetoric in the media were largely perpetuated.
Assange, who’s long held a membership in Australia’s largest media union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, was largely viewed in his home country as a reporter, NPR added.
The US Department of Justice was still investigating whether Assange could be charged with espionage or a criminal conspiracy with Pvt. Bradley Manning, the lone soldier accused of funneling information to WikiLeaks.
Assange has denied even speaking to Manning before the young soldier was named in the media as being accused of leaking secret information obtained from the US military’s network.