Australian Politician Says Assange Responsible for His Own Detention

Simon Birmingham, a senior figure in the Australian opposition, has stated that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s decision to resist extradition was the cause of his prolonged confinement in the UK.

Simon Birmingham, the opposition leader in the Australian Senate, has asserted that Julian Assange’s extended period of detention in the UK was a consequence of his own actions, specifically his avoidance of lawful extradition requests.

On Wednesday, Assange was released from a courtroom in a remote US Pacific territory after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defense information. This plea was in exchange for a sentence that effectively amounted to the time he had already spent in UK custody while fighting a US extradition request. The Australian government, under Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, had advocated for his release.

During an interview with Sky News Australia on Thursday, Simon Birmingham predicted that “the prime minister’s embrace of Mr. Assange might not age very well, once Mr Assange starts tweeting again.”

He insisted that Assange should not be regarded as an innocent Australian citizen, persecuted by an authoritarian government.

“Mr. Assange evaded lawful extradition requests, first by hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy, then by using his legal rights in the United Kingdom to challenge them over many years,” Birmingham stated. “The reason it has taken so long to resolve this is his decision to challenge it in that way.”

Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in 2012 due to concerns that a Swedish extradition request for the Wikileaks founder was a ploy to have him sent to the US. American espionage charges, which were made public years later, could have resulted in the Australian facing up to 175 years of imprisonment.

The Australian Senate opposition leader claimed that the publication of classified materials by WikiLeaks endangered the sources of US allies, including Australia, which is a member of the Five Eye intelligence-sharing group.

A similar argument was made by US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, who asserted during a daily briefing on Wednesday that Assange “put the lives of our partners, our allies and our diplomats at risk, especially those who work in dangerous places, like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Some journalists, including Associated Press reporter Matt Lee, challenged this claim – pointing out that the court verdict specifically stated that there were no victims in the case and that the US government never publicly identified any individual who was harmed by Wikileaks.

“Just because people were able to mitigate the harm done by your actions, that doesn’t absolve you,” Miller responded, drawing a comparison between the publication of leaked documents and reckless driving.