I See No Criminals, I See Before Me Political Prisoners

Julian Assange has been arrested. The Wikileaks founder was taken into custody today, December 7th by United Kingdom police after attending a London police station by appointment.

From here, his legal team will be fighting his extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape, from where they fear he will be handed over to the United States.

From political commentators and staff calling for Assange’s assassination, to the Australian government effectively hanging him out to dry, the last week or so has not been a good one for Mr Assange, or for his incendiary website, WikiLeaks, which has been shuffled from server to server, from domain name provider to domain name provider, and which has been dropped by both Amazon and PayPal.

Most troubling of all this is not the rather flimsy allegations of rape, but the fact that the Australian government (the nation of which Assange holds a passport and remains a citizen), remains convinced he has committed a crime, although PM Julia Gillard is unable to describe what that crime is.

If Julian Assange is extradited to the United States from Sweden to answer treason or espionage charges (charges that would make no sense given he is not a US citizen and therefore cannot commit treason against her, and given that he is not working for any kind of government and therefore cannot be committing espionage), he will no longer be a political activist and journalist, but a political prisoner held by one of the most powerful nations on earth.

This is no longer about whether or not it is right that he published diplomatic cables leaked to him by an American with a top level security clearance, but about the United States of America holding a citizen of an ally nation without charge.

If Julian Assange is taken by America we cannot expect him to be treated any differently than America treated David Hicks, another Australian citizen arrested in a foreign land and then spirited away to an offshore prison. The only difference between the two is that David Hicks was an actual criminal and Julian Assange is not, as yet, any kind of criminal. Though I am sure we can rely on the US to change their laws to MAKE him a criminal. They are, after all, exceptionally good at that.

Australia must immediately and decisively move to secure Mr Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen and strongly advise the United States that we will not tolerate threats of violence being made against his person. We must also advise the United States that holding him as a political prisoner is untenable to our diplomatic relationship.

This is not about Cablegate anymore. This is about right of media to do as they wish with information they are given, the transparency of government and the democracy they so desperately espouse as being the only way to live.

Holding Julian Assange as a political prisoner is no kind of democracy that I know.

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