MP makes 11th hour bid to stop Assange extradition

As part of a last-ditch attempt to stop Julian Assange's extradition, an independent MP has called on the federal government to leverage its US and UK connections and bring the WikiLeaks founder home.

Assange will front the High Court in London on February 20 in what could be the final bid to prevent his extradition to the United States, after more than a decade spent evading the Americans. 

Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie has long been outspoken in his support of the imprisoned Australian and will travel to England ahead of the hearing to bear witness and support Assange's family.

Independent Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie.
Andrew Wilkie is asking 'why can't our prime minister get on the phone'.

"I do not accept that the Australian government has done and is doing everything it humanly can to bust Julian out of Belmarsh (Prison)," he said on Tuesday.

"(Surely) our prime minister can get on the phone to the prime minister in the UK, the president of the United States and say, 'ey, this has gone on long enough'."

Mr Wilkie was part of a cross-party delegation of politicians that lobbied US Congress to drop the case against Assange during a September trip, but the US position has not changed.

"Until Julian Assange is released from prison until the extradition is dropped until he is allowed to come home with his family ... his will remain one of the greatest injustices this country has ever seen," Mr Wilkie said.

Assange, 52, lived in London’s Ecuadorian embassy under political asylum from 2012 to 2019 and has been in a high-security English prison for more than four years. 

He is facing 17 espionage charges after WikiLeaks published a haul of classified documents about US operations in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars more than a decade ago.

The MPs with Mr Wilkie outside parliament.
Mr Wilkie was supported by a number of MPs including Liberal Bridget Archer (far left).

In 2021, a UK judge ruled Assange should not be extradited to the US due to concerns for his mental health, but the decision was overturned on appeal.

His health has continued to deteriorate in the years since. 

If the 52-year-old loses his application to appeal on Tuesday, he could move to have his case heard by the European Court of Human Rights and try to delay his extradition.

But if extradited, he could be forced on a US-bound flight within hours and would face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison 

"What a chilling signal and message this situation is to every other Australian journalist," Mr Wilkie said.

"You may well be abandoned by the Australian government and find yourself shipped off to Saudi Arabia or China, or (wherever else) the Australian Government might be wanting to curry favour with at that particular time."

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