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How Julian Assange is putting the Australian Government’s character to the test

Being forced to take extraordinary measures by seeking political asylum in Ecuador shows just what a desperate situation Julian Assange has found himself in. Faced with the very real prospect of extradition to the US, once he fronts up in Sweden, Asssange is justifiably worried for his safety as he enters the black hole of the American judicial system. One only needs to look at the fate of Bradley Manning to see the seriousness of what happens when the US get their hands on public enemies seen to have embarrassed the government.

The Sydney Peace Foundation continues to support Julian Assange and Wikileaks unequivocally. In 2011, Julian Assange was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Gold medal for “exceptional courage in the pursuit of human rights.” In presenting the award to Assange at London’s Frontline Club Mary Kostakidis, a former member of the Australian Human Rights Consultation Committee, praised WikLeaks as an “ingenious and heroic website that has shifted the power balance between citizen and the state by exposing what governments really get up to in our name”. Kostakidis thanked Assange for his “heroic courage” as a whistleblower to take “great risks for our benefit”.

Today Mary Kostakidis commented, “Julian Assange had no choice but to seek political asylum given the failure of the Australian government to provide adequate assistance”.

But the real issue here is not about passing a character assessment on Julian Assange or debating the merits of WikiLeaks. It has taken on much greater significance to us all, and we should all be concerned. The real issue is what happens to an Australian citizen when your government has, in effect, decided that you’re on your own. We’ve seen this play out already with David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib.

Julian Assange has unwittingly become a test case of the Australian government’s rhetoric that it is not simply operating under the thumb of the US. The Sydney Peace Foundation urges the Australian Government to stand up for the rights of Julian Assange, thereby showing its independence and willingness to protect the interests of any Australian citizen.

This time, the test of character is on our government and we should all be hoping that it acts in the interests of its people, and not in that of its “big brother”.