Sunday 19 November 2017

Australia comes to defence of Assange and blames US for cable leaks

Keith Weir

Australia yesterday blamed the United States for the release by WikiLeaks of US diplomatic cables and said its Australian founder Julian Assange should not be held responsible.

Assange spent the night in a British jail after a judge in London refused to grant bail to the 39-year-old. Assange was detained after Sweden issued a European Arrest Warrant for him over alleged sexual offences.

He has spent time in Sweden and was accused this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. The pair's lawyer said their claims were not a politically motivated plot against Assange.

"It has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the CIA," lawyer Claes Borgstrom said.

Assange has angered US authorities and triggered headlines worldwide by publishing the secret cables.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the people who originally leaked the documents, not Assange, were legally liable and the leaks raised questions over the "adequacy" of US security.

"Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network," Rudd told Reuters in an interview.

"The Americans are responsible for that," said Rudd, who had been described in one leaked US cable as a "control freak".

WikiLeaks vowed it would continue making public details of the confidential US cables. Only a fraction of them have been published so far.

The latest cables, reported in Britain's 'Guardian' newspaper, said Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi made threats to cut trade with Britain and warned of "enormous repercussions" if the Libyan convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing died in a Scottish jail. He was freed in August 2009.

WikiLeaks also released cables yesterday that showed Saudi Arabia proposed an "Arab army" be deployed in Lebanon, with US air and naval cover, to stop Shi'ite Hezbollah militia after it seized control of parts of Beirut in 2008.

Like many of the cables, the disclosures give an insight into diplomacy which is normally screened from public view.

Assange has become the public face of WikiLeaks but he is now battling to clear his name.

Irish Independent

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