Why Julian Assange Could Be You

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Last night we learned that Julian Assange might spend a nasty winter in Sweden, arriving as soon as the end of November.

Line 1 paragraph 1 of the 43-page ruling dismissing Assange’s appeal against extradition describes him as a "journalist".

Being recognised as a journalist by the UK High Court is significant. It may send a message to the US Grand Jury that Assange and the many journalists and publishers who have published Wikileaks material should qualify for protection under the First Amendment.

Thoughtfully provided "to assist the media", the four-page summary of the ruling gets straight to the sex and is not pretty reading.

If Julian Assange has a case to answer on these serious allegations, he should be held to account for his behavior. But why after nearly a year hasn’t the man been formally charged?

Given that Assange requested and was granted permission to leave Sweden pending action on these allegations, why hasn’t his offer to be questioned via videoconference not been taken up when it would at least establish whether there are grounds for formal charges?

Why have the other legitimate levers described in a UK-Sweden treaty agreement been leapfrogged, with prosecutors launching straight into a bid for extradition?

And why isn’t the widespread epidemic of violence against women being recognised or prosecuted anywhere quite as athletically as in this particular case?

The obvious answer to each of these questions is: Because of Wikileaks, stupid.

By revealing so much to so many, Wikileaks has opened our eyes wider to cynical and secret government decision making, diplomatic chess moves and the brutality and collateral murder in wars waged like computer games. We cannot unlearn about the war crimes that have been committed, in our names and with our cash, or the fact that governments around the world have now been revealed as systematic liars to their own peoples.

Despite being named the "Napolean of the internet" and the best Australian outlaw since Ned Kelly, Wikileaks will not collapse if Assange is put on trial. If he is ever charged, one man’s alleged confusion between seduction and aggression will not undo the impact of Wikileaks’ achievement, the consequences of which are still reverberating around the world. In fact, the most immediate threat to Wikileaks is the banking blockade, which must be overturned.

However, Assange’s extradition will have broad implications, not only for the exercise of free speech, but also for all Australians — as it will bring into stark relief our own government’s commitment to our rights as citizens.

If he is sent to Sweden, Assange’s extradition must be conditional on him not being subject to the "temporary surrender" clauses in the bilateral treaty between the USA and Sweden.

I have pressed this matter with Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, who has 30 days to answer my Questions on Notice that ask exactly how our government will respond to this ruling, including whether the government will advocate against Assange being transferred to the USA.

Indications are that our government will hesitate — yesterday Labor joined with the Opposition to vote down my Senate motion on the matter.

But I confess to holding out some hope for Rudd who, unlike the Prime Minister and Attorney General, knew he was obliged to presume Julian Assange innocent before proven guilty. Instead of threatening to cancel this Australian passport, the Foreign Minister said publicly that his responsibility was to attend to his legal and consular rights.

While the world watches events unfold in London, we have a singular responsibility here in Australia for the protection the citizenship entitlements of one of our own. The next move is squarely in the court of the Australian Government.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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