|John Shipton and Stephen Kenny meet with Minister Penny Wong at Parliament House on Monday 28 November 2022
Available for further media comment:
- Gabriel Shipton – brother of Julian Assange
- John Shipton – father of Julian Assange
- Greg Barns SC – Assange Campaign Legal Advisor
- Stephen Kenny – Assange Campaign Solicitor
PEN Melbourne response
Wednesday 30 November 2022
RE: PM Albanese’s answer to Monique Ryan’s question about Julian Assange in Parliament today
International PEN Melbourne Centre welcomed MP Monique Ryan’s question to PM Albanese today, “Will the government intervene to bring Mr Assange home?”
PM Albanese replied “…it is time that this matter be brought to a close” and that, “My position is clear and has been made clear to the US administration”. He said that he will continue to advocate (for Julian Assange). The PM commented that while he did not have sympathy for some of Julian Assange’s actions, “You have to reach a point, whereby what is the point of continuing this legal action, which could be caught up now for many years, into the future.”
PEN Melbourne welcomes PM Albanese’s position on Julian Assange’s incarceration and urges him to continue to advocate vigorously with President Biden and the US administration his call today that ‘enough is enough’. We call on the US authorities to drop the charges against Assange and withdraw the extradition request.
PEN Melbourne, however, maintains that the charges, treatment and continued detention of Julian Assange are extraordinary and explicable only as political persecution. His mistreatment while incarcerated in the UK has been extreme, illegal, denies his human rights and is threatening his life. The legal process is being used as punishment. The political nature of the charges and illegal activities by UK and US authorities are grounds for his immediate release and for dismissing the extradition request. We therefore call on the UK government to immediately release Julian Assange from Belmarsh high security prison and to reject the extradition request.
Jennifer Robinson at the National Press Club here is the ABC link https://iview.abc.net.au/video/NC2211C038S00
|19 October, 2022
Today, Jennifer Robinson addressed the National Press Club in Canberra.
Jen gave an update on the ongoing persecution of Australian journalist, Julian Assange, the alarming poor state of his health and, should the US prosecution and extradition be successful, what this will mean for human rights, press freedom and the protection of whistleblowers.
Julian Assange, Free Speech and Democracy
Australian National Press Club, 19 October 2022
Thank you for your warm welcome and introduction, Laura.
It is a great pleasure to be with you at Australia’s National Press Club on Ngunnawal
land. I pay my respect to Ngunnawal elders past, present and emerging – and to all
First Nations people here today and joining us remotely.
I’d like to also acknowledge the presence today of those who have supported Julian
and his family – including
• Members of the Friends of Assange Parliamentary group, Senators Peter
Whish Wilson and David Shoebridge as well as Member for Kooyong, the Hon
Dr Monique Ryan;
• Bernard Collaery, whose endurance, courage and integrity inspires so many
• And David McBride, the whistle–blower still facing trial, who remains the only
person charged years after the Brereton Report
I have been working on Julian Assange’s defence and talking about its implications
for freedom of the press and democracy for more than a decade.
You might have heard some media soundbites from me on these themes over the
years: about the stark injustice that Julian faces 175 years in prison for committing
acts of journalism; about how the US seeks to condemn him to life in prison for the
very same publications for which he has won awards the world over – including the
Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism and the Sydney
Peace Prize Medal; and that his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent for free
speech and journalists everywhere.
But having an opportunity to elaborate is rare, so my thanks to the National Press
Club for giving me this time with you today.
I’m often asked how Julian is, so let me start there:
I don’t know how much longer he can last.
The world was shocked by his appearance when he was arrested in 2019.
For over 7 years, I had been watching his health decline inside the Ecuadorian
embassy where he was protecting himself from US extradition.
After years of government statements and media commentary claiming Julian was
paranoid and should just leave the embassy, some were surprised when Julian was
served with a US extradition request.
I wasn’t. It was exactly what we had been warning about for a decade.
For the past 3.5 years, Julian has been in a high security prison in London – and I
have watched his health decline even further.
Then last year, during a stressful court appeal hearing, Julian had a mini stroke.
As the prosecution was deriding the medical evidence of Julian’s severe depression
and suicidal ideation – and the risk to his life – those with video access saw Julian in
a blue room in Belmarsh with his head in his hands.
I’ve seen Julian on some pretty bad days, but he looked terrible.
I was alarmed. And for good reason.
As it turned out, he had just had – or was experiencing as we watched – a mini
stroke, often the harbinger for a major stroke.
Once again, we were witnessing Julian’s health deteriorate in real time.
Julian’s wife Stella waits anxiously for the phone call she dreads. As she has said,
Julian is suffering profoundly in prison – and it is no exaggeration to say he may not
Unless a political resolution is found – and this case has always been political – Julian
will be detained for many years to come.
It is impossible to accurately predict the timeline, but here is a brief overview of
where we are and what the legal process ahead looks like.
After a year–long extradition hearing process, interrupted by COVID outbreaks,
Julian won his case in early January 2021. If extradited to the US, he would be
placed under prison conditions known as Special Administrative Measures – or SAMs
– which has been described as the darkest black hole of the US prison system. The
magistrate ruled that Julian’s extradition would be oppressive because the medical
evidence shows that if extradited and placed under SAMs, he would suicide. So she
barred his extradition.
But the Trump administration appealed – and in its last days, sought to get around
the court decision and shift the goal posts by offering an assurance that Julian would
not be placed under SAMs.
As Amnesty International has said, US assurances aren’t worth the paper they’re
But in Julian’s case it’s even worse that that because the US assurance was
conditional: the US only promised not to place him under SAMs unless they decide
he later deserves it.
And who would decide? The CIA. And he would have no right to appeal their
Before the US government appeal was heard, we learned – thanks to important
investigative journalism – that the CIA had planned to kidnap and kill Julian.
Yes: let’s pause there for a moment.
The CIA had planned to kidnap and kill an award–winning Australian journalist in
Again: the Central Intelligence Agency had plans in place to send someone to
London to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange. We know this because of an
investigation based on interviews with 30 official US government sources.
And this is the intelligence agency which has the power to place Julian, once
extradited to the US, under prison conditions that doctors say would cause his
When the news broke, I thought – finally – this has got to end the case.
The British courts accepted the US assurance and ruled Julian could be extradited
despite these circumstances.
In June, the British Home Secretary ordered his extradition.
We have filed an appeal and we should learn soon whether the High Court will grant
permission and hear it.
If it does, we can expect a process that could take years – through the High Court,
and to the UK Supreme Court. If we lose, we will appeal to the European Court of
Human Rights – that is, if the conservative British government doesn’t remove its
jurisdiction before we are able to.
If our appeal fails, Julian will be extradited to the US – where his prison conditions will
be at the whim of the intelligence agencies which plotted to kill him. He will face an
unfair trial and once convicted, it could take years before a First Amendment
constitutional challenge would be heard before the US Supreme Court.
Another decade of his life gone – if he can survive that long.
And that is why I am here.
This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to
wait for a legal fix. It might be surprising to hear me, as a lawyer, say this: but the
solution is not legal, it is political.
When you hear politicians or government officials in the UK or US or in Australia
using language like due process and rule of law – this is what they are talking about.
Punishment by legal process. Bury him in never–ending legal process until he dies.
In fact, there’s been very little “rule of law” or “due process” in what’s been inflicted
on Julian. As we argue in our appeal, the case has been rife with abuse.
The case against him is unprecedented – it is the first time in history a publisher has
faced prosecution for journalism under the Espionage Act. And the US is going to
argue that, as an Australian citizen, Julian is not entitled to constitutional free speech
protection at all.
The UK–US extradition treaty prohibits extradition for political offences – and yet the
US is purporting relying on this treaty to extradite Julian under the Espionage Act.
Espionage is a political offence.
We have seen the fabrication of evidence against him – the US’ key witness in
Iceland has admitted he lied but the US continues to press charges based on his
evidence. And its indictment deliberately misrepresents the facts.
We have seen unlawful surveillance of Julian, on me personally and his lawyers, on
his medical treatment, and the seizure of legally privileged material. At the extradition
hearing, we heard evidence from Daniel Ellsberg, the revered leaker of the Pentagon
Papers. Ellsberg explained that his prosecution under the Espionage Act by the
Nixon administration was thrown out – with prejudice – for far less abuse than Julian
has faced. But Julian’s prosecution commenced under the Trump administration –
and now continues under Biden. What does that say about our civil liberties and our
democracies in 2022?
The list of abuse goes on and on.
[take a breath…]
As a lawyer working on human rights cases, it’s important to remain focused on the
principles at stake and the work at hand. An essential part of the job is being
dispassionate and level–headed in the face of injustice.
But it has become harder and harder over the years to remain unaffected by what
Julian is being put through – as a human being and fellow Australian.
In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, reported his findings on
Julian’s case and concluded Julian had been subjected to torture. Years before, we
had made a complaint to Melzer’s mandate – but we heard nothing back. Melzer
would later admit he had ignored our complaint because, like many, he was
prejudiced against Julian after years of government propaganda and media
coverage attacking Julian’s reputation.
But in 2019, he agreed to read our complaint. And what he read shocked him and
forced him to confront his own prejudice. He has since written a book about what
he learned, The Trial of Julian Assange, which I highly recommend.
In his UN findings, Melzer put it this way:
‘In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I
have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately
isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with
so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law’.
It hasn’t always been easy to remain dispassionate in the face of this persecution –
and its impact on Julian and his family.
Julian’s has two small children, Gabriel and Max, who are just 5 and 3. When they
tell me about going to see Daddy “in the queue” – they are talking about seeing him
in prison. They call it “the queue” because of the security queue they have to stand
in, as guards pat down and search their little bodies, checking inside their ears and
mouths, in their hair and in their shoes, before they can see their father.
It is heart–breaking.
Due to COVID restrictions, Julian wasn’t allowed to see his children for 6 months.
When they were finally let into see him, ongoing prison restrictions meant there was
a period he wasn’t allowed to touch them or give them a cuddle. Explain that to a
It is heart–breaking.
Last week, thousands of people linked hands to form a human chain around British
Parliament in an inspiring protest to demand Julian’s freedom. The kids came to the
protest and I walked with them around the chain. They were wearing their “Free My
Dad” t–shirts, and chanted along with the crowd “Free Julian Assange”.
It is heart–breaking.
I say this because I want to remind you all today of the very real, human
consequences of this case.
But what is Julian in prison for? Why are he and his family being put through all of
The events that led to Julian’s indictment started in a room similar to this one.
On 5 April 2010, at the National Press Club in Washington DC, WikiLeaks shared the
Collateral Murder video with the world. It put WikiLeaks – and Julian – on the map in
all kinds of ways.
As you know, it showed the murder of civilians, children and journalists by US forces
in Iraq. A war crime, which the US authorities then tried to cover up.
An Australian journalist, Dean Yates, was the head of Reuters in Iraq at the time. He
sought answers about what had happened to his colleagues. The US claimed their
forces had complied with their rules of engagement. That was a lie. Freedom of
Information requests were rejected – and Yates and Reuters were denied the truth.
It was only after the video and rules of engagement were published by WikiLeaks
that the world understood what happened.
I want to emphasise here: Julian is being prosecuted for publishing evidence about
the murder of your journalist colleagues in Iraq.
After the release of Collateral Murder came the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs
and the State Department Cables. In each of these releases, WikiLeaks pioneered
global collaborations between journalists on a scale never seen before. Working
together with WikiLeaks, journalists from mainstream media outlets, analysed large
sets of data, identifying patterns and trends to understand what was really
happening, and tell the story.
The publications showed that thousands more civilians were killed in American wars
than the US government had ever admitted. They showed evidence of war crimes,
extrajudicial killings, and torture by US forces, western governments and their
autocratic regime allies. They revealed the dense networks of support between those
governments and major corporations and the extent to which foreign and trade policy
was driven by corporate interests.
Journalism like this, at its core, is about subjecting power to scrutiny, and holding it
And the powerful didn’t like it. WikiLeaks was responsible for hundreds – even
thousands – of stories about how power really works in Washington, in London, in
Canberra, in capitals across the world – about what it means in the streets and
homes of people in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan – and about the price that is
paid for the application of power in shattered lives and dead and broken bodies.
Rather than shame, WikiLeaks provoked rage – rage that journalism was exposing
The Obama administration opened a criminal investigation which Australian
diplomats reported was unprecedented in size and scale.