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Australian leader criticizes long persecution of Asange in US and UK

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday criticized the US and UK's ongoing persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Australia's parliament on Wednesday passed a motion backed by the prime minister calling for an end to the persecution of 52-year-old Assange so he can return to his family in Australia.

Assange, an Australian citizen, will ask the High Court in London next week for permission to appeal against his extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.

“People will have different opinions about Assange’s behavior,” Albanese told parliament.

“But regardless of the people’s position, this cannot go on forever,” he added.

He assured that he had raised Assange's case “at the highest levels” in the United Kingdom and the United States.

He assured that the Australian government has a duty to defend its citizens.

He referred to the case of Australian journalist of Chinese origin Cheng Lei, who was released last October after more than years in prison in China on espionage charges.

He also pointed to diplomatic “successes” with Australians held in Vietnam and Burma.

Assange has been imprisoned in Belmarsh maximum security prison in southeast London since April 2019.

He was arrested after being held at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

The US wants to prosecute Assange for revealing military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington accuses him of having published around 700,000 confidential documents about US military and diplomatic activities since 2010.