6 p.m. local time this Friday, at Melbourne’s Federation Square, Julian Assange will speak at a public discussion about WikiLeaks and freedom of speech. His address assumes significance following a member of the Parliament of Norway, The Storting, nominating his revolutionary website WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. [The nomination period for the 2011 prize just ended.]
Thus it would be interesting as to what the WikiLeaks founder has to say on his nomination and freedom of speech. And he also has to face court in extradition proceedings in Britain three days later on February 7, 2011. Assange will be speaking via video from London and he would be joined by his UK lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Melbourne solicitor Peter Gordon, Melbourne Member of Parliament Adam Bandt, public interest solicitor Lizzie O’Shea and Media Entertainment And Arts Alliance’s Christopher Warren.
The event is being organised by Human Rights groups in Melbourne and supported by GetUp, Liberty Victoria, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Law Institute Victoria, Victoria Trades Hall Council, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and Future Leaders.
Australia’s civil liberties organization ‘Liberty Victoria’ meanwhile criticised the Prime Minster and the Attorney-General regarding statements that each have made about the legal situation of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Liberty stated that it was entirely inappropriate for the Prime Minister to declare that Assange has engaged in illegal activity, The letter states that:
“Inquiries are being conducted in both the United States and Australia, arising from the disclosure of US diplomatic cables, to determine whether Mr Assange may have committed an offence against the criminal law of either country. These inquiries are incomplete. At this stage Liberty is unaware of any Australian law that Mr Assange may have broken.”
It said that it was wrong for the Prime Minister in effect to declare Assange’s guilt before any law he may have broken had even been identified. “To declare Assange guilty of illegality before we know what the offence is, before a charge has been laid, and before a Court has heard the evidence, is to pre-empt the rule of law and to gravely prejudice Assange’s prospects for fair trial. As a lawyer the Prime Minister should plainly be aware of this.”
Liberty also criticized the statement reportedly made by a spokesperson for the Attorney-General, McClelland. The spokesperson declared recently that if Assange were to return to Australia he would immediately be arrested.
As a matter of fact, an Interpol ‘red notice’ had been issued in relation to allegations that Assange may have committed sexual offences while in Sweden. However this notice does not compel Australian authorities to arrest a person, but only to monitor his whereabouts.
True, in the end whether or not Assange should be arrested and face possible extradition proceedings is a matter for the courts. It is not, and cannot be, a political decision. Because of this it is highly improper for a political operative to declare that Assange’s arrest is imminent.
“It may be that Mr Assange has committed an offence against Australia criminal law. But at this stage we don’t know whether he has and are in no position to judge whether he has. In these circumstances, for politicians and operatives to pre-empt the judicial process and pre-judge its outcome is wholly in appropriate,” the Liberty said.
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