Media Release: Liberty Victoria Criticizes PM and AG over Julian Assange comments

Liberty criticizes PM and Attorney over
Julian Assange

The civil liberties organization, Liberty Victoria, today criticized the Prime Minster and the Attorney-General regarding statements that each have made about the legal situation of the Director of Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Liberty stated that it was entirely inappropriate for the Prime Minister to declare that Mr Assange has engaged in illegal activity, The letter states that:

"Inquiries are being conducted in both the United States and Australia, arising from the disclosure of US diplomatic cables, to determine whether Mr Assange may have committed an offence against the criminal law of either country. These inquiries are incomplete. At this stage Liberty is unaware of any Australian law that Mr Assange may have broken."

The President of Liberty, Professor Spencer Zifcak, said today that it was wrong for the Prime Minister in effect to declare Mr Assange's guilt before any law he may have broken had even been identified.

"To declare Mr Assange guilty of illegality before we know what the offence is, before a charge has been laid, and before a Court has heard the evidence, is to pre-empt the rule of law and to gravely prejudice Mr Assange's prospects for fair trial. As a lawyer the Prime Minister should plainly be aware of this."

Liberty also criticized the statement reportedly made by a spokesperson for the Attorney-General, Mr McClelland. The spokesperson declared recently that if Mr Assange were to return to Australia he would immediately be arrested.

Professor Zifcak acknowledged that an Interpol 'red notice' had been issued in relation to allegations that Mr Assange may have committed sexual offences recently while in Sweden. However this notice does not compel Australian authorities to arrest a person, but only to monitor his whereabouts.

"In the end" Professor Zifcak said, "whether or not Mr Assange should be arrested and face possible extradition proceedings is a matter for the courts. It is not, and cannot be, a political decision. Because of this it is highly improper for a political operative to declare that Mr Assange's arrest is imminent."

"It may be that Mr Assange has committed an offence against Australia criminal law. But at this stage we don't know whether he has and are in no position to judge whether he has. In these circumstances, for politicians and operatives to pre-empt the judicial process and pre-judge its outcome is wholly in appropriate."

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Professor Spencer Zifcak