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Thursday 26 April 2018

Assange senate bid 'legal defence'

Julian Assange was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June
Julian Assange was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange regards his bid to become an Australian senator as a defence against potential criminal prosecution in the United States and Britain, it has been reported.

Mr Assange spoke to The Conversation website at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he was granted asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.

If he wins a Senate seat at elections on September 24, Mr Assange told the website that the US Department of Justice would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row. The British government would follow suit, otherwise "the political costs of the current stand-off will be higher still," Mr Assange added.

Mr Assange supporters last week enrolled him to vote in Victoria state, a necessary step toward being nominated as a candidate. Nominations for the Senate are likely to close on August 22, and the six-year term of office would begin on July 1, 2014.

Australians living overseas can enrol to vote and consequently run as a Senate candidate if they left Australia within the past three years and intend to return within six years of their date of departure. Mr Assange said he was last in Australia in June 2010.

Mr Assange plans to register a new political party, the WikiLeaks Party, to run Senate candidates in several Australian states. He told the website he was sure the party would attract the minimum 500 fee-paying members required to be registered.

WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance spokeswoman Sam Castro said last week that if Mr Assange was elected and was unable to take his Senate seat, another nominated WikiLeaks Party member would be chosen to fill the vacancy. The party would run on a platform of transparency in government, she said.

Mr Assange's election campaign already has the endorsement of his parents. His father, Sydney architect John Shipton, said he will be the chief executive of the newly-formed party. "The party stands for what Julian espouses - transparency and accountability in government and, of course, human rights," he added.

Mr Assange told the website the Swedish allegations against him were "falling apart" and police should drop the case.

The US Department of Justice has been investigating WikiLeaks since the secret-busting website began distributing hundreds of thousands of classified US documents. But few details of that investigation have been made public. Mr Assange's supporters suggest the Swedish case is being pursued as an avenue to extradite him to the US, though the Swedish government denies it.

Press Association

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