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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese Hails Julian Assange’s Return, Opposition Says He Is No Martyr


Australian PM Hails Assange's Return, Opposition Says He Is 'No Martyr'

Julian Assange landed in Australia to an ecstatic welcome on Wednesday evening.


Julian Assange spent his first night in 14 years as a free man back at home in Australia as the conservative opposition on Thursday cautioned the government against hailing the WikiLeaks founder as a hero.

Assange landed in Australia to an ecstatic welcome on Wednesday evening after spending more than five years in a British high-security jail and seven years in asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

He had battled extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations and to the U.S., where he faced 18 criminal charges tied to WikiLeaks’ release in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified military documents and diplomatic cables.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has been calling for Assange’s release for several years, welcomed him home in a phone call saying he “had a very warm discussion” with Assange.

However, the conservative opposition raised concerns about portraying Assange as a hero after he spent more than a decade trying to avoid prosecution and then pleaded guilty to one criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defence documents.

The opposition leader in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, welcomed Assange’s release but posted on X that “he’s no martyr and was never a political prisoner denied access to justice.”

He cautioned Albanese against meeting Assange and said the release could strain Australia’s ties with the United States, but that was rejected by Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

Wong told ABC Radio on Thursday that Assange’s release posed no threat to Australia-U.S. ties.

James Paterson, the opposition’s home affairs spokesperson, told Sky News Assange had evaded lawful extradition requests by hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy and used his legal rights in the UK to challenge it over many years.

“He is now someone who’s pled guilty to very serious national security offences, which are not just offences against the United States. They’re offences against the Five Eyes intelligence gathering alliance, including Australia,” he said.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said its involvement in the resolution of Assange’s case was very limited and reiterated its position that his actions had put lives at risk, although the U.S. judge who accepted his guilty plea said there had been no personal victim.

The White House was not in any way involved in the case, national security spokesman John Kirby said, adding it was a Department of Justice matter.

Assange’s supporters and free speech advocates view him as a victim because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing and potential crimes, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, the U.S. government has long said his actions were reckless and by publishing the names of government sources he had put agents’ lives at risk.

Assange has not spoken publicly since being released. His wife, Stella, said it was too soon to say what her husband would do next and requested privacy for him.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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