THE peak body representing Australian lawyers has reminded its constituency of the importance of allowing the legal process to take its course as the profession voices its outrage at the treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
As reported by The New Lawyer yesterday, lawyers in Victoria have voiced their concern about government interference in the case against Assange.
Barrister Julian Burnside was among a legal-heavy group meeting in Victoria raising the human rights issues surrounding the WikiLeaks debacle.
The meeting condemned any future call for Assange’s extradition to the United States, stating he cannot receive a fair trial.
Now the Law Council says it will be closely monitoring the progress of the Assage matter, “given the particular interest of the Australian legal profession”.
In a statement today, the Law Council said while a presumption of innocence is essential, it supports the continuance of Australian consular assistance, “which was provided at the time of his recent arrest and first court appearance in London” for issues apparently unrelated to WikiLeaks.
The Law Council said assistance should continue to be provided by the Australian government for the duration of the legal proceedings.
“In relation to the possibility that Mr Assange may be charged with offences relating to leaked cables, rule of law principles require that Mr Assange be dealt with by due process and the Law Council considers it to be inappropriate that public comments are made about his guilt or innocence,” Law Council president Glenn Ferguson said.
“The legal process should be allowed to take its course without interference to ensure that justice is served,” he said.
Victorian lawyers said at the meeting in Victoria that any criminalisation of WikiLeaks is a direct attack on the media and freedom of speech.
Speakers at the forum included Burnside QC; Professor Spencer Zifcak, President Liberty Victoria; Peter Gordon, Gordon Legal; Jon Faine, ABC and Steven Stevens, LIV president.
Burnside told the meeting that it was appalling that Assange had been cast adrift by the Australian Government.
Peter Gordon said it would appear that “war is being waged by big governments and big corporations to suppress information”.
Jon Faine told the meeting that Assange’s predicament was pure and simple about freedom of speech. He said the issue was about a journalist getting a “good yarn” and making it available using whatever platform he can.
Professor Zifcak said Governments were “plundering the law to silence a critic”.