A leading Australian legal group has accused Julia Gillard of putting politics ahead of principle with regard to Julian Assange.
The president of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Stephen Keim SC, told Lawyers Weekly today (3 February) that the government is failing to protect the legal rights of Assange, an Australian citizen.
"It is irrelevant whether they like him or agree with what he is saying, the government should stand up for the legal rights of all citizens," he said.
Keim was particularly concerned with the Prime Minister's recent comments that she is unable to assist the legal situation that Assange faces. According to Keim, there are many things the Australian Government can do.
"There is a real concern that if Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden, he will then face extradition to the USA, given the hysteria in that country with regard to his conduct," he said.
"The Australian Government should be concerned by the actions of Swedish authorities, which certainly look like an abuse of process on certain levels, and there are many diplomatic channels the government can use to ensure he is treated fairly."
Keim criticised Gillard for continuing to "get her facts wrong" on Assange. He has called for her to desist from making comments that he had been "charged" with offences, when Swedish authorities had in fact requested his extradition to face questioning by prosecutors.
He also said the Prime Minister should accept the findings of the Australian Federal Police that the release of diplomatic cables on Wikileaks does not break any Australian laws. He said this would act as some sort of counter to previous statements she has made, that Assange had acted illegally in releasing the cables.
"Ms Gillard is choosing political expediency over principle," he said. "This sends a message to foreign governments that Australia will pay lip service to the rule of law when it suits, but that Australian citizens who have made themselves unpopular with powerful governments at home or abroad can no longer expect Australia to uphold their rights as citizens."
Keim will be speaking at a public rally in Brisbane next Wednesday (9 February) about Julian Assange and Wikileaks.