Julian Assange supporters open to a plea deal with US

The board of the Walkley Awards gave WikiLeaks the prize for most outstanding contribution to journalism in 2011 and praised it for delivering an “avalanche of inconvenient truths” during a courageous commitment to journalism.

Robinson and Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder last year in London’s Belmarsh prison, are visiting Australia this week to build the case for his release, in part by emphasising that putting him on trial in the US would be an assault on the freedom of the press.

Robinson named the “collateral murder” video released in 2010, showing US forces killing civilians and journalists in Iraq, as an example of the journalism WikiLeaks had done in a similar way to other media.

“These are important publications and that gets lost in the conversation about Julian,” she said.

“WikiLeaks won the most outstanding contribution to journalism award in 2011 in this country for the very same publications for which Julian sits in prison and faces 175 years in a US prison and we cannot forget that fact.”

News organisations including The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País issued a joint letter last November calling on the US government to drop the charges against Assange.


Robinson and Stella Assange faced questions at the National Press Club, however, over the decision by WikiLeaks during the US election campaign in 2016 to release emails from the Democratic National Committee that undercut Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency.

Assange said claims her husband was a propagandist for Russia were baseless and nothing he had published had been shown to be false. She noted he had stated that the 2016 emails had not come from Russia and that others had described them as being of public importance.

She also denied claims, often made about WikiLeaks over the past decade, that it had put lives at risk with its disclosures, arguing instead it had made redactions before publication.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has raised the case with the US administration and publicly declared that the incarceration should end, while Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said in early May the case had gone on too long.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie challenged Albanese in question time on Monday over why the prime minister had not met Stella Assange during her visit to Canberra.

“What I have done is to act in the most effective way possible,” Albanese said in reply, adding that he appreciated the bipartisan support that “enough is enough” on the detention. He confirmed he had made representations about Assange to the US and UK governments.

“A priority for us is not doing something that is a demonstration, it is doing something that produces an outcome,” he said.

Assange and Robinson made no criticism of the Australian government on Monday and acknowledged that an outcome would depend on the ability to persuade the US authorities to relent.


“Julian’s life is in the hands of the Australian government,” Stella Assange said.

“It is not my place to tell the Australian government how to do it, but it must be done. Julian must be released and I place hope in Anthony Albanese’s will to make it happen. I have to. This is the closest we’ve ever been to securing Julian’s release.”

The Australian lawyer for Assange, Stephen Kenny, who also acted for Hicks before his release, said he was doubtful the US Department of Justice would be open to a plea deal.

“My assessment of the American position is that they are quite content to see Julian suffer as long and as much as possible,” he said.

“There does not appear to be any real activity or willingness on their part to engage in any proper discussions about a plea deal, even if Julian was willing to take one.”

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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