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US envoy says no interest in extraditing Assange

Agence France-Presse
The US ambassador to Australia says Washington won't extradite the WikiLeaks founder to America

SYDNEY, Australia – The US ambassador to Australia has dismissed suggestions Washington wants WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited to America, as his mother Thursday accused Canberra of failing to help her son.

Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Assange, an Australian national, can be extradited to Sweden, although his deportation was put on hold to give his lawyers a final chance to reopen the case.

Assange is wanted by Stockholm over sex crime allegations but he fears being sent to Sweden could pave the way for extradition to the US on possible espionage or conspiracy charges.

The 40-year-old shot to global fame after his WikiLeaks site enraged Washington by leaking thousands of secret US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The site later leaked a cache of US diplomatic cables and earlier this year Australian media, citing confidential emails, reported that US prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against him.

But the US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich said there was no plan to seek his extradition from Sweden.

“It’s not something that the US cares about. It’s not interested in it,” he told state broadcaster ABC in comments aired Thursday.

“And frankly if he is in Sweden then there is a less robust extradition relationship than there is between the US and the UK.

“So I think it’s one of those narratives that has been made up. There is nothing to it.”

Under pressure

Close US ally Australia has come under pressure from Assange’s supporters to provide him with more support after Prime Minister Julia Gillard previously slammed WikiLeaks as “grossly irresponsible”.

His mother claimed Canberra had done the bare minimum.

“(They have been) absolutely useless, in fact contrary to help, they’ve done everything they can to smear Julian and hand him up to the US,” she told the ABC from London after jetting out this week for the court verdict.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr rejected the criticism, saying Assange was receiving regular visits from Australian consular staff.

“He gets the full Australian consulate support available to any Australian caught up in the legal processes of another country,” he said, adding that Australia’s hands were tied.

“We can’t interfere with the legal processes of another country,” Carr said.

The former computer hacker has been fighting deportation since his arrest in London in December 2010 on the European arrest warrant issued by Sweden.

He does not deny having sex with two WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden while attending a seminar, but insists it was consensual and argues there are political motives behind the attempts to extradite him. – Agence France-Presse

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