Sold Down The River

Sourced at: The Mecury

By: GREG BARNS   |   April 23, 2012 10.36am

IN the context of a wealthy democracy like Australia it is reasonable for you to have the expectation that if you are arrested or charged in a foreign country then the Australian Government will provide you with consular assistance.

One would not expect that the Australian Government would do everything in its power not to shop you to that foreign country or a third country.

But this is exactly what has happened to the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

Any day now the UK Supreme Court will rule on Assange’s appeal against a decision of the English courts to allow his extradition to Sweden where he faces politically driven criminal charges.

Make no mistake. If Assange loses his appeals he will go to Sweden and be placed in solitary confinement and held without charge.

That country then hand him on the Americans who will subject Assange to all manner of rough justice.

The Americans will then pat Australia’s political elite on the head telling them what good boys and girls they have been.

With the notable exception of the principled Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, independent Andrew Wilkie and the Greens, the rest of Canberra has been happy to sell one of their own down the river from the day Assange lifted the lid on the duplicitous and scheming world of international diplomacy and military actions.

The actions of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Nicola Roxon have been particularly appalling.

Gillard declared that Assange should be charged under Australian law. As someone with a law degree it must have occurred to Gillard that she was being intellectually dishonest in this absurd call, given that Assange’s operations were in Sweden.

Back in February last year, when Assange appealed for Gillard’s assistance in relation to the Swedish charges, she dismissed his plea.

“There’s not anything we can, or indeed, should do about that,” Gillard said on February 2.

Of course it’s a different story when Australians get into trouble in Bali (excepting the disgraceful handling by the Australian Federal Police of the Bali Nine, who they allowed to be caught in a country with the death penalty).

Roxon has been equally troubling. Last week she told the ABC: “If you’re in another country or breaking the laws of another country we have made very clear that we want all of the proper processes to apply, we’ve made very clear that he’s an Australian and [Assange is] welcome to come home to Australia.”

The facts of Assange’s case belie this comment from the Attorney-General. The Swedish case against Assange is an abuse of process and Roxon knows that to be a fact.

The prosecutor in the case is actively involved in what might be described as sexual politics in Sweden and has been accused of assuming guilt of anyone arrested on a sexual assault charge.

And the Swedish legal system is unfair and inhumane. Anne Lamberg, the head of the Swedish Lawyers Association said on May 5 last year: “The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and other Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and the UN Committee Against Torture have criticised Sweden for long detention periods and we agree that they can be incredibly long.

“We have also repeatedly through the years challenged trials behind closed doors. As well as the Lay Judges, but on the grounds that it recruits from a limited pool of people rather than the politicisation of the courts.”

So if Roxon is so keen on ensuring the Swedes apply proper processes, why isn’t she doing more to assist Assange, given that by Australian standards Sweden is little better than an authoritarian regime when it comes to criminal justice?

And why isn’t Gillard calling her Swedish counterpart to give him both barrels on the same issue?

Neither Gillard nor Roxon could really care less about Assange being returned to Sweden because both are in the thrall of Washington.

That this is the case is evident by the fact that the US is nobbling Australian Government officials over Freedom of Information requests concerning cables between Washington and Canberra over WikiLeaks.

The Americans do not want materials released and are plainly interfering in the workings of a foreign government namely Australia.

Then there is the official government line of Assange which presumes his guilt. It is straight out of the State Department’s handbook of spin.

A letter sent recently by Anna Harmer, a senior official in Roxon’s department says that WikiLeaks’ action in releasing US diplomatic cables is “reckless, irresponsible and potentially dangerous”.

The case of Julian Assange reflects poorly on Australia.

It teaches Australians a lesson if you get into trouble overseas and your plight interferes with Canberra’s political interests then you will be fed to the wolves, while politicians cry crocodile tears over your plight.

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