By Dave Lindorff and Ron Ridenour
(published in Counterpunch)
On April 4, in what could be a major positive development in the 11-year entrapment and four-year solitary confinement by Britain of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, he was visited for the first time in the hell-hole of Belmarsh Prison by the Australian Labour Party-led government’s new High Commissioner to the UK, Stephen Smith.
After Smith’s visit to the tiny cell where Assange has been confined for what will be four years come this April 19, fighting a Washington extradition request that if approved and acted upon would have him facing espionage charges in a US court, Australia’s Labour Party Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that he had “said publicly that I have raised the issues” of the US charges under a century-old Espionage Act that has never before been used against a journalist, and of the extradition effort as well as the 12-year dogged pursuit by the US of the Wikileaks publisher.
Interview of Dave Lindorff on the Assange case developments by ‘Torch” host Paul DeRienzo on PRN (interview begins at 15.49)
Albanese said he had “encouraged” his High Commissioner to visit the captive Assange — the first time any Australian consular official had visited this Australian captive since his incarceration in the medieval prison for major violent criminals since his ordeal there began in 2019.
Albanese, who had pledged during his campaign for PM to work to free Assange finally made it clear on April 5 that her was doing so. “I have said publicly that I have raised these issues at an appropriate level,’ he said. “I have made clear the Australian government’s position, which is: enough is enough. There’s nothing to be served from ongoing issues being continued…I said that in opposition. And my position hasn’t changed.”
Assange, his support movement in the UK, and his family expressed optimism about the clear and unprecedented shift in the Canberra government’s attitude towards Assange, an Australian citizen who had been left by his home country to dangle in Britain’s politically corrupted legal system since 2012 under both Tory and Labour governments. His brother Gabriel Shipton told the Australian Associated Press that the High Commissioner’s visit is a “significant and necessary step.,” He added, “We look forward to the Australian government continuing on this path that leads to Julian’s freedom.”
The news wasn’t all positive to be sure. A delegation of three representatives of the Paris-based journalist rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was denied entry to Belmarsh Prison on the same day as the High Commissioner Smith was visiting him, reportedly with the explanation that British officials had “received intelligence” that the three visitors were actually journalists.
One of the RSF would-be visitors was the organization’s Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, who had traveled from France for the visit. He called the explanation “absurd” and told a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Clearly the official explanation of this denial of access is not sincere. It was decided and communicated with bad faith. But this is another evidence that in the case of Julian Assange, nothing is ever normal. That the judiciary and the prison administration do not deal with him as a normal prisoner.”
The evident shift in Australian government policy towards Assange under its new Labour government has been slow in coming…
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF and RON RIDENOUR in ThisCantBeHappening.net, please go to: https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/04/07/us-uk-seek-to-silence-julian-assange-and-free-press-australia-says-enough/