Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed frustration at the United States’s sustained pursuit of Julian Assange and the lack of diplomatic resolution to the issue.
Albanese said he is concerned about Assange’s mental health, as the Australian national has been held in a high-security prison in the UK for four years.
“I just say that enough is enough,” Albanese told Australian public broadcaster ABC on Friday. “There is nothing to be served by his ongoing incarceration.”
Assange, now 51, is fighting against the UK’s approval of his extradition to the US after being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019.
The UK approved his extradition last June, saying courts had found nothing that “would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process”.
Assange was initially arrested in London following accusations of sexual assault in Sweden – a charge that was eventually dropped.
However, the US’s pursuit of the Australian continues for 18 espionage and computer hacking charges concerning the release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cable.
Albanese on Friday condemned the longing effort, saying he has advocated for Assange’s release in meetings with US President Joe Biden’s officials.
“I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is and the US administration is certainly very aware of what the Australian government’s position is,” he added.
While the Australian Prime Minister acknowledged concerns raised in the US over the consequences of leaks, he said the punishment has been disproportionate on Assange’s part.
“I think that when Australians look at the circumstances, look at the fact that the person who released the information (Chelsea Manning) is walking freely now, having served some time in incarceration but is now released for a long period of time, then they’ll see that there is a disconnect there,” he said.
Albanese said he will continue to engage in diplomatically to achieve an outcome, yet refused to say whether that will be discussed when he hosts the US leader on 24 May.
Assange’s case should be decided in terms of whether the time he had “effectively served” in Belmarsh prison was “reasonable” if the allegations against him were proven, Albanese insisted.
Failing to do so might have taken a toll on Assange, he said, referring to a ruling in the UK that ruled against deportation over “risks of suicide”.
“There was a court decision here in the United Kingdom that was overturned on appeal that went to Mr Assange’s health as well and I am concerned for him,” he added.