Australian government pressured to act on Assange

(AFP) – SYDNEY: Lawyers and the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange today ramped up pressure on the Australian government to step in and ensure he gets a fair trial in Sweden.

Assange, who is an Australian citizen, lost a bitter legal battle yesterday to block his extradition from Britain to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Two judges at the High Court in London rejected arguments by Assange, whose anti-secrecy website has enraged governments around the world, that his extradition would be unlawful.

Assange now has 14 days to take the case to the British Supreme Court and his legal counsel Geoffrey Robertson called on the government to intervene if the extradition goes through.

“I think Canberra may have to do something about it,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It’s got a duty to help Australians in peril in foreign courts. It didn’t do anything for David Hicks and that was something of a disgrace,” he said, referring to the Australian formerly detained at Guantanamo Bay.

“As far as Julian Assange is concerned, Sweden doesn’t have bail, doesn’t have money bail for foreigners, so he’s likely to be held in custody.”

Robertson added that he does not believe the 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder, who has previously blasted Canberra for not doing enough to protect him in the fallout from the leaks, will face a fair trial in Sweden.

“He’s going to be tried in secret, and this is outrageous by our standards and by any standards,” he said.

Assange has strongly denied the rape allegations, claiming they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks. He has been under virtual house arrest since he was first detained in December.

He has expressed fears that his extradition to Sweden would lead to his transfer to the United States to face as yet unspecified charges of spying.

His mother told Australian media today she believes her son will go to Sweden to fight the charges as long as the Australian government brokers a deal to ensure he will not be extradited to the US.

Christine Assange said Canberra must follow its own diplomatic and legal advice that her son was in “clear and present danger” and seek written guarantees he would not be rendered to the US.

“If that was to take place I believe Julian would go to Sweden and not resist it. His concern is that he’ll be rendered on,” she said.

Asked about the matter as she arrived in the French resort town of Cannes for the G20 summit, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said a statement may be issued later.

“So we’ll get briefed and understand fully what’s happened here and make a statement if necessary,” she said.