Assange ‘wants to return to Melbourne’

WACA this is it.  As we have known from the outset it is our responsibility to protect Assange and the principals of WikiLeaks, only the people can. Time for relentless action and voice.  Come home Julian, they will extradite you only over our dead bodies and they would not dare.

by Mex Cooper

February 1, 2011 – 12:18PM

Julian Assange visits a police station as part of his bail terms.

Julian Assange visits a police station as part of his bail terms. Photo: Reuters

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has called on the Gillard government to assure his safe return home to Melbourne, ahead of his extradition hearing on alleged sex crimes.

Hundreds of Melburnians are expected to hear Assange’s plea in a recorded address to be played at a free speech forum at Federation Square on Friday.

Assange is due before a London court on Monday for the start of legal proceedings to have him extradited to Sweden to face possible sexual assault charges.

Prominent defence lawyer Rob Stary, who is a member of Assange’s Melbourne law team, said the Wikileaks architect in a ten-minute recording thanked his Australians supporters, particularly those in his hometown of Melbourne.

‘‘He wants to return to Australia, he wants to return safely here, knowing he’ll have the support of the government.

”He insists that the government intervene to protect him,” Mr Stary said.

“Of course we have witnessed the government not protecting him but rather taking a hostile attitude to him without any foundation.”

Consular officials contacted Assange when he was in jail but Mr Stary said he had not received any government assistance since.

Mr Stary said Assange longed to return to his hometown of Melbourne where he has garnered enormous support for his mission to make world governments more transparent and accountable.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year described Assange’s role in the worldwide publication of thousands of secret US documents as “illegal”, two weeks before an Australian Federal Police investigation found he had not committed a crime in Australia.

“She knew there was an Australian Federal Police investigation pending when she made those comments … and yet she was prepared to say at that point, prior to any finding of the AFP, that he behaved unlawfully and reprehensibly,” Mr Stary said.

“We’ve been concerned that kind of rhetoric coming out of the government has been damaging and in his address he has asked the Government to intervene to support him”.

Assange still holds an Australian passport and Mr Stary said there was no basis for his travel documents to be suspended or cancelled.

But he said before Assange returned to Australia he would need an assurances that the Australian government would not give him up to the US government, which has been investigating if it can charge the whistleblower.

The extradition hearing is expected to last two to three days. Mr Stary said it was likely the losing side would appeal the decision and one of Assange’s British lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, would also address the crowd via live videolink on Friday.

The Guardian and The New York Times, have released books in the past fortnight detailing the broadsheets’ collaboration with Assange in the worldwide publication of the leaked Iraq War logs and US diplomatic cables.

Mr Stary said Assange, who is depicted as an eccentric, autocratic man, was concerned by the books’ personal attacks against him.

“We’re just concerned about the personality politics involved. He’s concerned about (the books) because it distracts people from the real message Wikileaks is on about,” Mr Stary said.

Assange appears in good health in his video message but remained under enormous pressure from an international campaign headed by the US to demonise him, Mr Stary said.

“There’s no doubt that the pressures of the last two or three months have taken a toll on him,” Mr Stary said.

“But he is a resilient person and he’s strong and he’s certainly emboldened by the support that’s been provided to him within Australia and Melbourne in particular and he says that in the presentation.”

The forum, organised the Law Institute of Victoria, will take place at Federation Square on Friday at 6pm.


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