Australia: No sign from US of Assange indictment

May 31, 2012 - 12:48 PM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia has talked to the United States about the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Thursday that it can't protect the Australian activist from other countries' justice systems.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr revealed on Thursday that he had discussed the concerns of Assange and his family with U.S. officials. Assange claims that the U.S. has already secretly indicted him for divulging American secrets, and will act on the indictment if Sweden succeeds in extraditing him from Britain.

"The United States has said nothing to indicate they're planning an indictment," Carr told reporters.

Assange supporters want Australia to seek U.S. assurances that the former computer hacker won't be charged. His release of a quarter-million classified U.S. State Department cables in 2010 outraged Washington and destabilized American diplomacy worldwide.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Parliament Thursday that if the United States did extradite Assange, the "Australian government cannot interfere in the judicial processes of other countries."

She endorsed Carr's comments, saying there was no advice from Washington that there was an indictment or a decision made to extradite.

Britain's Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed Assange's extradition to Sweden, bringing him a big step closer to prosecution in a Scandinavian court.

But a question mark hung over the decision after Assange's lawyer made the highly unusual suggestion that she would try to reopen the case, raising the prospect of more legal wrangling.

Assange has spent almost two years fighting attempts to send him to Sweden, where he is wanted over sex crime allegations. He has yet to be charged.

He and his supporters have suggested that the sex allegations are a cover for a planned move to extradite him to the United States, but U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich denied that the United States had any interest in Sweden's extradition bid succeeding.

"It's one of those narratives that has been made up. There's nothing to it," Bleich said late Wednesday.

Assange shot to international prominence in 2010 with the release of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents, including a hard-to-watch video that showed U.S. forces gunning down a crowd of Iraqi civilians and journalists whom they had mistaken for insurgents.

Australian authorities have cooperated with the United States in investigating WikiLeaks' conduct. The Australians have concluded that Assange has broken no Australian law.