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Australian leader refuses to publicly intervene on Assange

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday rejected calls for him to publicly demand the United States (US) drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange.

The Australian government has been under mounting pressure to intervene since the British government last week ordered Assange’s extradition to the US on spying charges. Assange’s supporters and lawyers say his actions were protected by the US Constitution.

Albanese, who came to power at elections a month ago, declined to say whether he had spoken to President Joe Biden about the case. “There are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, that somehow makes it more important. It doesn’t,” Albanese told reporters.

“I intend to lead a government that engages diplomatically and appropriately with our partners,” Albanese added.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Foreign Minister Penny Wong responded to the British government’s decision by saying Assange’s “case has dragged on for too long and… should be brought to a close”.

They said they would continue to express that view to the United Kingdom (UK) and US governments, but their joint statement fell short of calling for the US to drop the case.

A pedestrian walks past a house with a sign in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sydney. PHOTO: AP