WikiLeaks founder's lawyer: Australia has not moved to help Assange

A lawyer and advisor to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the Australian native's government has done nothing for Assange despite repeated calls for assistance to help the whistleblower out of years of legal and diplomatic troubles.

Assange, an Australian national, has been holed up inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 2012, after he sought asylum following a legal battle he lost against extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape.

Assange fears being taken to Sweden would clear the way for him to be sent to the United States, where he faces charges for publishing classified government material.

"There is an inaction on our government's part. We have made many attempts, but there has been no response from Canberra. It's almost like this is not an issue for Australia," Greg Barns, a lawyer and advisor to Assange, said Friday.

"The high commission in London has not reached out to assist Assange even once ... And there is a great hostility against him among the foreign and defence officials here because of what he revealed."

Barns said Australia had doggedly followed cases of its citizens in mix-ups in other countries, including China and Indonesia.

"The reluctance comes from not wanting to upset their biggest allies: the United Kingdom and the United States. When it comes to foreign policy stance, Australia is joined to the hips with Washington."

Assange is wanted by Swedish authorities for an interview in relation to a suspected rape in 2010, an allegation he has vehemently denied.

Barns said if Assange leaves the London embassy there is near certainty that he would be arrested and extradited to Sweden, from where he could be sent to the US for an ongoing investigation in connection with WikiLeaks' publication of secret diplomatic cables.

Earlier this month, Sweden welcomed Ecuador's decision to allow Swedish prosecutors to question Assange inside the embassy, but Barns said no progress has been made to set the date for the proceedings.

"This has become a human rights issue now. No one should have to be confined for four years without any charge. It's common decency," Barns told dpa during an interview in Sydney.

"My view is that the Australian government should intervene on the grounds of basic humanity."

A UN panel of independent legal scholars has said Assange has been subject to arbitrary detention since his arrest in London in 2010.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said the government "stands ready to provide appropriate consular assistance to Mr Assange."

"Mr Assange has not taken up the Australian government’s repeated offers of consular assistance, which remain open," the official said in an email statement on Friday.

The authorities did not respond to specific questions about the allegations of government inaction in trying to free Assange.

Last update: Fri, 26/08/2016 - 10:30

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