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Biden considering Australian request to drop Assange charges

International Desk | banglanews24.com
Update: 2024-04-11 11:38:19
Biden considering Australian request to drop Assange charges photo collected

US President Joe Biden has said that he is considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The country's parliament recently passed a measure - backed by PM Anthony Albanese - calling for the return of Mr Assange to his native Australia.

The US wants to extradite the 52-year-old from the UK on criminal charges over the leaking of military records.

Mr Assange denies the charges, saying the leaks were an act of journalism.

The president was asked about Australia's request on Wednesday and said: "We're considering it."

The measure passed the Australian parliament in February. Mr Albanese told MPs: "People will have a range of views about Mr Assange's conduct... But regardless of where people stand, this thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely."

Mr Albanese on Thursday said Mr Biden's comments were "encouraging" and he was "increasingly optimistic about an outcome".

"We want Mr Assange to be able to return home," he told Sky News Australia.

Mr Assange, 52, is fighting extradition in the UK courts.

The extradition was put on hold in March after London's High Court said the United States must provide assurances he would not face the death penalty.

The High Court is due to evaluate any responses from the US authorities at the end of May.

In a post on Twitter/X, directed at Mr Biden, Mr Assange's wife Stella said: "Do the right thing. Drop the charges."

Kristinn Hrafnsson, the current editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said that it was "not too late" for the president to stop the extradition attempt, which he said was a "politically motivated act" by Mr Biden's predecessor.

US prosecutors want to try the Wikileaks founder on 18 counts, almost all under the Espionage Act, over the release of confidential US military records and diplomatic messages relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Assange founded the Wikileaks website in 2006. It claims to have published more than ten million documents, including many confidential or restricted official reports related to war, spying and corruption.

In 2010, it released a video from a US military helicopter which showed civilians being killed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It also published thousands of confidential documents supplied by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

These suggested that the US military had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.

Manning leaked the files to Wikileaks in 2010. She was later jailed for 35 years, but former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.

The US Department of Justice called the leaks "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States".

Mr Assange has been in Belmarsh prison in London for the past five years pending a number of legal challenges.

Before that he had taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years.

He initially faced a Swedish arrest warrant accusing him of having raped one woman and sexually assaulted another. He denied the claims.

In 2019 the Swedish authorities dropped the case, after he had been indicted on the US charges, saying too much time had passed since the original complaint.

Source: Al Jazeera 

BDST: 1137 HRS, APR 11, 2024
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