Biden considering Australian request to drop Assange charges

US President Joe Biden has said that he is considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The country’s parliament recently passed a measure – backed by PM Anthony Albanese – calling for the return of Mr Assange to his native Australia.

The US wants to extradite the 52-year-old from the UK on criminal charges over the leaking of military records.

Mr Assange denies the charges, saying the leaks were an act of journalism.

The president was asked about Australia’s request on Wednesday and said: “We’re considering it.”

The measure passed the Australian parliament in February. Mr Albanese told MPs: “People will have a range of views about Mr Assange’s conduct… But regardless of where people stand, this thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely.”

Mr Assange, 52, is fighting extradition in the UK courts.

The extradition was put on hold in March after London’s High Court said the United States must provide assurances he would not face the death penalty.

The High Court is due to evaluate any responses from the US authorities at the end of May.

In a post on Twitter/X, directed at Mr Biden, Mr Assange’s wife Stella said: “Do the right thing. Drop the charges.”

Kristinn Hrafnsson, the current editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said that it was “not too late” for the president to stop the extradition attempt, which he said was a “politically motivated act” by Mr Biden’s predecessor.

US prosecutors want to try the Wikileaks founder on 18 counts, almost all under the Espionage Act, over the release of confidential US military records and diplomatic messages relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Assange founded the Wikileaks website in 2006. It claims to have published more than ten million documents, including many confidential or restricted official reports related to war, spying and corruption.

In 2010, it released a video from a US military helicopter which showed civilians being killed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

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