Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has joined calls to end attempts to extradite jailed Australian whistleblower Julian Assange to the US.
Mr Assange is in jail in Britain, and a British court recently ruled he could be extradited to the US to face espionage charges for an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose classified information that revealed alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mr Joyce said the Wikileaks founder should either face British courts for alleged crimes committed on that country’s soil or be sent back to Australia.
“I have never met him and, from observation, don’t respect him. I presume I would not like him,” Mr Joyce writes in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I view these facts as a clarion call to be all the more vigilant that he is treated just as one of my most powerful colleagues or dearest friends would be.
“It is a case of how our citizen is protected and judged. Imagine a sliding door moment, and it was not Assange but you who was in court in Britain.”
Mr Joyce says Mr Assange didn’t steal secret US files but only published them, which did not breach any Australian laws at the time, and he was not in the US when leaks were put online.
“The question is then: Why is he to be extradited to the US? If he insulted the Koran, would he be extradited to Saudi Arabia?
“If we are content that this process of extraditing one Australian to the US for breaking its laws even when he was not in that country is fair, are we prepared therefore to accept it as a precedent for applying to any other laws of any other nation to any of our citizens?”
Mr Joyce’s opinion piece came a day after independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to pick up the phone to US President Joe Biden and British PM Boris Johnson to end the prosecution.
Mr Wilkie, a former intelligence analyst, said the prosecution of Mr Assange had always been political and could be solved politically by Mr Morrison.
Mr Assange faces 175 years in prison in the US.