Australian Senator Scott Ludlam Green Party

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WikiLeaks’s Possible Case Against Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

12 October 2012, 14:38  Download audio file

Australian Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam, granted the Voice of Russia an exclusive interview in which he discussed the possible case against Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the political aspects in Australia regarding Wikileaks, Julian Assange and whistleblowers.

I’d like to ask you your opinion about the possibility of Julian Assange suing Julia Gillard. Do you think this was a stunt or do you think there is a real possibility of this?

I don’t think it’s a stunt. I’d probably leave it to the lawyers to decide the chances of that action – what I am aware of from a legal perspective – the comments that Prime Minister Gillard has made are highly prejudicial against the backdrop of senior United States officials from the administration and also from senior media figures. And also senior political figures in Sweden have made this case highly prejudicial to Julian Assange, effectively preemptively declaring him guilty. Now I know why, if you were in the legal profession, if you were interested in due process being followed, why you’d be very concerned about such statements being made.

Is there going to be any recourse that Julian might have to counter all this?

I think that ultimately the recourse – if he ends up being dragged back to the United States and prosecuted – I hope really the recourse will be what it is about the United States legal system and protection for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the presumption of innocence. I hope we’ll fall back on those constitutional protections of which the US citizens are justifiably proud. The legal protections that are afforded to journalists and freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution should clearly prevail in the case of a publishing organization that was doing its job. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I think what this administration needs to do is take a deep breath and simply drop any proceedings that are occurring against Julian Assange or anybody else associated with the WikiLeaks organization.

You just said he might be dragged back to the United States. You are not very confident about his asylum in Ecuador. Do you think he’ll get out of the embassy?

I just don’t think he wants to spend the rest of his life in the embassy. I’m extremely grateful to the Ecuadorian authorities who have taken the time to do what the Australian government never bothered to do, which was to investigate Mr. Assange’s claim that he could well be subject to persecution, to arbitrary incarceration and potentially even torture if he was transferred back to the United States. As an Australian citizen and as somebody who has met Julian Assange, I’m extremely grateful to the Ecuadorian authorities who have done that. But he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in an embassy. The British government quite clearly, I think, at this stage needs to broker an agreement with Swedish authorities so that those matters can be laid to rest and the prosecutors in Sweden are given access to Mr. Assange in the embassy quarters perhaps, or via video-link-up so that those matters can be finally dealt with.

Have you heard of anything from the Australian government as far as trying to convince the UK authorities to give him safe passage to Ecuador?

No. The short answer to your perfectly reasonable question is no. The Australian government wishes this wasn’t happening. Is pretending that’s this is a simple matter of Julian Assange being entangled in legal proceedings in Sweden. It’s effectively denying that the United States government has any claim on Julian Assange. They’re denying the existence of the grand jury that was established in Virginia at the end of 2000 and they are pretending that none of this is happening. I don’t think there’s been any attempt to come to some form of an agreement with the Swedish prosecutors.

I was hoping that maybe the Australian government had finally decided to show him some support. Does Julian Assange have any recourse under Australian law where he could, for example, sue the government for not providing him the support they should have?

I have not heard that discussed actually but that doesn’t necessarily mean those considerations haven’t been made. To be honest, I don’t think it should come to that and I’m not even certain that what he needs at the moment is legal support. I think he needs political and diplomatic support. The simplest way to resolve these matters, in my view, is for the Australian government, perhaps even when Secretary Clinton is here in Australia next month, is to get an agreement from the United States that they won’t proceed to any kind of extradition proceedings. If they were to do that, if there’s an agreement that the United States doesn’t intend to prosecute Julian Assange, that then makes the matter of travelling back to Sweden if necessary to resolve those issues and have those matters finally heard. My understanding is that things would really resolve then. The key question here has always been why the Australian government has never sought an undertaking from our allies the United States that they won’t to prosecute an Australian publisher for doing his job.

Have relations with the United States or with Ecuador, for that matter, changed since he was granted asylum?

The relationship between Australia and the United States is very strong. Most Australians, I think, have a great affection for our allies in the United States, and that goes back through generations. And that’s just something that unfortunately is actually being done some damage to based on the way this matter is being handled. As I have said before, the protections afforded under the US Constitution for, first, free speech and for freedom of association, freedom for publishing and so on, are protections that are actually exemplary around the world. It’s really sad to see those traditions, which I think most American citizens are actually very proud of, being damaged by this administration and that I think, perhaps, is one of the more far-reaching consequences of the way this administration has pursued the case.

Do you think it’s just this administration or the US government in general, as this all started under Bush?

As an Australian citizen I probably don’t have a front row seat. The two versions of the Patriot Act were written under the Bush administration but the fact remains that President Obama has prosecuted more government whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. That’s a terrible indictment. That is extraordinarily unfortunate that a democrat president is doing that. And I think it’s obviously doing harm to the reputation of this organization and clearly it’s setting out to destroy it, but I think it’s also doing harm to the reputation of the United States around the world, in that, to my mind, as an Australian citizen as an ally of the United States, the principle that you may disagree with somebody, but you defend to the death their right to say it, is something that we’ve actually seen not just written on paper, we’ve seen concrete expressions of that from time to time in the US policy and the US domestic law. It’s an extraordinary shame to be seeing that undermined and eroded by the way that Julian Assange is being treated.

Has this case had any resonance in Australia with laws regarding whistleblowers and freedom of the press?

Whistleblowing legislation in Australia was something that was promoted with great fanfare three or four years ago when there was a change of government after 2007 and then it disappeared. That matter was actually raised in the Australian Senate today and was merrily dismissed by the government. There are no formal clauses of protection for whistleblowers at the moment and in a number of instances these people have been treated very, very badly. One guy comes to mind who blew the whistle on really important security holes in Australia’s major airports. His life has been ruined. He blew the whistle and was later found to be absolutely vindicated. Major changes were made in the way that airport security was handled in Australia. His life has been destroyed. It’s just one case that I know of the real urgent need for whistleblower protection here in Australia.

That was a case where he was working in a public interest, I assume?

What it comes right down to it most whistleblowers are operating in the public interest. You don’t put yourself and your career at that kind of risk for nothing. It’s interesting to note that Private First Class Bradley Manning, who is alleged to be the whistleblower for some of the material later released by WikiLeaks, wasn’t doing it out of some kind of sense of personal aggrandizement and obviously this evidence is yet to be tested and no conviction has been found. But the material that has been put in the public domain suggested he was just horrified at war crimes that were perpetuated by US military activities in Iraq. And those are things that in democratic countries we should really look after the individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to make sure that the truth is told whether it was Bradley Manning or not was the source of that material, he’s been treated absolutely terribly and I suspect the way he was incarcerated and dealt with while he was held in solitary confinement. Probably, was important in the way the Ecuadorian authorities formed their view about the risks faced by Julian Assange.

What’s your opinion on the fact that nobody really has been prosecuted for – you’ve just mentioned – war crimes that were exposed by WikiLeaks?

I think it exemplifies everything that has gone wrong, doesn’t it? Nobody who has been identified in the massacres in Iraq, serious massacres, in which men, women and children were murdered by traumatized American forces and then air-strikes were called in to destroy the evidence, for example, or the matters that were revealed in the videotapes of the Apache strikes in Iraq. Nobody has been prosecuted as a result of any of those actions which have been clearly documented and yet it’s the whistleblowers who are the ones who are facing prosecution. That’s a matter that won’t be set to rest easily.

What could be done to remedy that injustice? Is there anything we can do?

I think these are matters for the United States people, this is not something that I can fix as an Australian. We’ve got our own series problems down here in Australia. I believe in democratic processes in the United States it’s one of the world’s oldest democracies. It’s shown an extraordinary capacity for renewal over a period of time. And in many instances we’ve taken our lead from the protection afforded citizens and some really important progress that has been made in the United States that has then been reflected around the world. I hope these issues form a part of the forthcoming presidential elections. I don’t see it occurring at the moment but this is something that the American people really have to resolve. It can’t be fixed from the outside.

Australia Gave Up on Assange

22 June 2012, 20:43

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Why is "official" Australian reaction on Julian Assange’s impending extradition indifferent?

Hello. This is John Robles. I am speaking with Senator Scott Ludlam with the Australian Green Party.

On May 30th you raised the issue before the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs on Julian Assange’s impending extradition. What was the reaction?

The reaction is really indifference. The Australian government doesn’t completely understand why the people are so concerned and as recently as yesterday we had a Foreign Minister on Twitter throwing his hands up in the air metaphorically saying what more should we have done? And I am struggling to understand what it is that they are not understanding or that they don’t get. We are looking for the Australian government to stand up for Mr. Assange’s human rights and they have been extremely negligent in that duty.

What is now the official position of the Australian government?

The Australian government has essentially said that they offered Mr. Assange a full consular assistance, which is true in a very legalistic way of thinking about it. They’ve sent him text messages, they sent officers to appear at court hearings in the United Kingdom and I think they attended when he was incarcerated in the end of 2010. But at the same time as that is occurring the Australian government has also preemptively declared the work to Wikileaks illegal, that was their prime minister, the Attorney-General instructed the Federal police to investigate whether Assange’s passport could be torn up, there have been false crimes and statements made that he has been charged by the Swedish government, which is obviously not true, and also that he fled Sweden, which is not true. So the assistance has been fairly seen on the ground but there has also been some really quite aggressive political positioning around the work of Wikileaks organization. Now we believe whether you agree with this publishing outfit style and its role in the way that it conducts its work, would you agree with that or not. Julian still has Australian citizenship entitlement, he still has the right to a fair trial, I think he has right to know whether his government will protect him if for example he is prosecuted by the United States.

I find this very bizarre. How is it that he may face the death penalty if he is an Australian citizen?

That’s peculiar. I don’t know how that would work, what is likely is that he would be potentially charged of espionage, that’s what we believe based on the work of the grand jury that was empanelled at the end of 2010. And so there may be espionage charges or charges related to computer hacking, illegal entry to computer systems, but nobody knows, this really is guess work because it hasn’t been revealed whether there was an indictment that was produced by the grand jury, whether it’s underway. And those sort of things I would have thought the Australian government would be very interested in finding out.

Would do you know about the sealed grand jury finding?

We know probably no more than the general public. We know from media reports that the grand jury existed, that was impaneled in the end of 2010, but it was issuing subpoenas tens of thousands pages of documentation that have been assembled and that then it wasn’t mentioned that sealed indictment existed and the Stratfor that leaked via Wikileaks in February. So, there is no proof that there is a sealed indictment, there is certainly evidence leading in that direction. My ask really on the Australian government is that they should simply take an interest, stop pretending they stay out of this debate and talking about consular system, they need political and diplomatic support. That’s what Julian is asking for, that’s what we are asking for. Just to give you one example, a foreign minister was who is an Australian citizen who was there developing prosecutions in the international criminal court. She had diplomatic protection, she should not have been incarcerated and I strongly support a foreign minister travelling there to advocate in her cause. Now that’s not consular assistance, that somebody actually offering her substantive help and that’s what I think – we are not asking for the foreign minister to fly anywhere to confront anybody. We would like to know whether the U.S. government intends to prosecute Julian Assange and if they do whether the Australian government will tolerate that or whether they will resist it.

What documents did you request? Have you received them?

We’ve requested documents in the position of the Australian government, we are relating to the interactions with the counterpart in the department of state and the department of justice. I don’t have any standing to directly demand documents from the US but I am able to inquire to what communications have occurred between counterparts here and in Washington and in that regard the department of foreign affairs has delayed, obfuscated, made excuses and made it difficult as possible to the point where they are not actually in breech of their own guideline, we are appealing that they’ve handled the case. It appears as though they are doing everything they possibly can to prevent everything that might expose what they are actually being doing, which I suspect either announce to ignorance or to complicity, either they know that the prosecutions are about to be launched. They haven’t done anything about it, or they don’t know they are being kept in the dark and I am not sure which is worse.

Now he has sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Do you think the US will try to intercept him if he leaves the Embassy?

I don’t believe that the US has ever indicated that they would do such a thing but Scotland Yard have indicated that Julian’s now breached his bail conditions and if sets foot outside the diplomatic protection by the Ecuadorian Embassy, that he will be arrested. So, as long as he stays on that property, but I can’s imagine circumstance in which he would be able to make it through, he is thown onto a claim unless there is negotiated settlement with the British government. So, at the moment quite literally it’s a stand off and I don’t think anybody knows exactly how it is going to be resolved.

So, it looks like he will be there for a long time?

It’s very difficult to say. In part this is up to the president and the government of Ecuador as to whether they choose to offer him asylum. If they deny him asylum, then I understand that he would then be handed back to British authorities who presumably would put him in prison and immediately transfer him to Stockar. If he is prosecuted and found guilty he could potentially serve out some of his term here in Australia, there is an agreement that it would repatriate a prisoner and Australian government indicated that it is aware of that option.

Are there any other developments that you would like the world to know about?

The Australian people by quite a strong majority support the work of the Wikileaks organization. They support the kind of journalism and the kind of publishing that Wikileaks did, mainstream journalists and publishing houses were putting stories originating from Wikileaks, we saw them on the front page of the major papers day after day. These were war crimes that were exposed, these were substantial issues of public policy around the way the United States behaves in the United Nations, the fact that the Australian government had offered military troops to special operations in Pakistan, missile strikes in Yemen that public weren’t aware of. I think the citizens of every country in the world learned some important things from the work of Wikileaks. That’s not good enough now that we stand back and allow the organization to be sabotaged and its proponent to be locked up.

Do you see a public outcry in Australia causing the government to change their position?

Yes, I think that’s actually starting to happen now. We saw yesterday for the first time - I was able to get opposition party support, conservative party support for a motion in the Senate in support of Wikileaks organization and Julian Assange right and that’s the first time that’s occurred. I think the political pressure is mounting, I think the Australian government is starting to become increasingly isolated and I think there is still time for them to do the right thing and I hope they do.

Thank you very much.

You were listening to Australian Senator Scott Ludlam with the Australian Green Party.

 

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