WORLD / CROSS-BORDERS
Assange ‘free to return home’ once legal challenges over, Australia PM says
Published: Jan 05, 2021 05:48 PM
Julian Assange is "free to return home" to Australia once legal challenges against him are dealt with, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, after a UK court denied a request to extradite the Wikileaks founder to the US.

A supporter of Julian Assange holds a placard as she stands outside Westminster Magistrates Court during a hearing into Assange's ongoing extradition case, in London, Britain on November 10, 2019. Photo: VCG

A British judge on Monday blocked the extradition request by the US, where Assange was set to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide.

US justice department said it would continue to seek Assange's extradition with prosecutors set to appeal the ruling to London's High Court.

"Well, the justice system is making its way and we're not a party to that. And like any Australian, they're offered consular support and should, you know, the appeal fail, obviously he would be able to return to Australia like any other Australian," Morrison told local radio station 2GB.

"So, yes, it's just a straightforward process of the legal system in the UK working its way through."

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday offered political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a move that could anger the US, which is seeking his extradition.

Celebrating a decision by a British judge on Monday to deny a request to extradite Assange to the US, Lopez Obrador said he wanted his foreign minister to ask Britain if it could release Assange so Mexico could offer him asylum.

"Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance," he said. "We'll give him protection."

US authorities accuse Assange of offenses during the administration of former president Barack Obama relating to the release by WikiLeaks of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which they say put lives at risk.

Although the Obama administration opted not to prosecute Assange, Lopez Obrador's offer drew criticism as an undiplomatic gesture.
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