Australia offers consular help to Julian Assange

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop says she has offered WikiLeaks founder consular assistance and is seeking legal advice over a UN panel report that ruled that he has been arbitrarily detained 

Julian Assange hails the UN report as a 'sweet and significant victory'
Julian Assange hails the UN report as a 'sweet and significant victory'

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop has offered Julian Assange consular assistance, and is seeking legal advice over the implications of a UN panel report that ruled that the UK and Sweden had arbitrarily detained the WikiLeaks founder.

“I have now read the [UN] report and I am seeking legal advice on its implications for Mr Assange, as an Australian citizen,” Bishop said after meeting members of Assange’s legal team in London Thursday.

“I have confirmed with his lawyers that our offer of consular assistance stands should he require it.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention this week released a ruling urging the UK and Swedish governments to allow Assange to go free without fear of arrest and afford him the right of compensation over his “deprivation of liberty”.

Assange, 44, is likely to remain holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after both the UK and Swedish governments rejected the UN ruling.

Prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has urged the Australian government to lobby Sweden to allow him to walk free.

“The Australian government should remind Sweden of their duty to accept the tribunal’s decision, not argue with the umpire,” Robertson told Network Seven on Saturday.

However, Assange may struggle to win support from some Australian politicians.

Innovation minister Christopher Pyne and Labour frontbencher Richard Marles described him as “no hero” and argued that he had put peoples’ lives at risk, including Australian service personnel.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to Assange, dismissed their claims, insisting there was no evidence that information leaked by Assange about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars had put lives in jeopardy.

Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012 so as to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. On Friday, he made a rare appearance on an embassy balcony to tell supports that he had won a “sweet victory”.

“We have today a really significant victory that has brought a smile to my face and I hope to many others as well,” he told reporters by video link from the embassy.

He added that he fears being sent to the US to face an espionage case over WikiLeaks’ release of top-secret military and diplomatic documents.

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