Boris Johnson should block attempts to extradite Julian Assange to the US, say two Australian MPs who have flown to the UK to visit the Wikileaks founder.
Andrew Wilkie, an independent federal MP, said the extradition of Assange, who has been charged by the US with conspiring to hack into a secret Pentagon computer network, would set a dangerous precedent.
“This will establish a precedent that if you are a journalist who does anything that that offends any government in the world then you face the very real prospect of being extradited to that country,” he said. “This is a political case and what is at stake is not just the life of Julian Assange. It is about the future of journalism.”
Wilkie was joined in London by the co-chair of the “Bring Julian Assange Home” parliamentary group, the Liberal National MP George Christensen, who said he and Wilkie had come to speak directly with the WikiLeaks founder. He said he was joining forces with those on the left even though he was a conservative.
“I am a big fan of Trump, I am a big fan of Bojo [Boris Johnson] but I’ll tell you what I value more: free speech,” he said. “There are a lot of Australians on the right and left who think that Julian Assange is a rat bag, that I am a rat bag, but that he should be brought home.”
Christensen said Britain’s prime minister had spoken about how he believed that the extradition treaty was somewhat imbalanced, to the cost of the UK.
“I hope that Boris Johnson withdraws this case that is before the courts,” he said. “There is a problem here … What if it was a British journalist or an outspoken British citizen who went on holiday to another country that has an extradition treaty with China, and China wanted to extradite that British citizen?”
The MPs’ appearance in London ahead of the start of an extradition hearing next week came as a letter by a group of doctors representing 117 physicians and psychologists from 18 nations called for an end to what they described as “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”.
The letter, which was published in the medical journal the Lancet and has also been sent to the Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, expresses concern over Assange’s fitness to take part in the legal proceedings.
The letter, which echoes the concerns raised by the UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, on Assange’s health, adds: “Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN special rapporteur on torture has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death.
“Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.”
Assange is being held in Belmarsh prison in south-east London. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.