/ 27 June 2024

Assange touches down

Julian_Assange_(1)

The Squiz 

Julian Assange is back in Australia after a US federal court judge in Saipan handed him – as expected – a 62-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to one count of espionage. Given he’d already served that time in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, Assange was allowed to walk free, bringing a 14-year-long ordeal to a close. He immediately flew to Canberra, touching down last night. And if you missed it, it was quite the moment… Assange stepped off the plane with his fist raised as onlookers cheered before reuniting with his wife, Stella, and father John Shipton. But we didn’t hear from him – and we might not for a while… 

What happened last night, then?

His legal team, Jennifer Robinson and Barry Pollack, spoke. Robinson – Assange’s longest-serving lawyer – said Assange had spoken to PM Anthony Albanese over the phone as soon as he landed, thanking him for his support. “Julian … told the PM that he had saved his life, and I don’t think that that is an exaggeration,” she said. Stella Assange also spoke, saying while her husband was grateful to supporters, “he needs time, he needs to recuperate” before speaking publicly. She asked for space so they and their young children could “be a family”. In the meantime, Assange’s release has resurfaced questions about whether or not he was acting as a journalist when he published the confidential US documents that started the whole saga… His legal team said he was. But whether he’ll continue that work is up in the air – his wife says it’s too “premature” to say.

Anything else?

Well, while we’ve got you… Assange wasn’t the only VIP who touched down in Canberra yesterday. New Solomon Islands PM Jeremiah Manele made his first visit to Australia after coming to power last month. He was here to talk security and development with Albanese after taking over from his pro-China predecessor, Manasseh Sogavare, with a vow to re-establish closer ties with us, alongside their growing relationship with China. Albanese pledged our support to help double the size of the Solomons’ police force, and he said Manele had made it clear that Australia is the Solomons’ “partner of choice”. Manele said they had “frank discussions” about their views on security/strategic arrangements in the Pacific and that he’d “taken on board Australia’s concerns” about China’s influence in the region. He’s heading to China next, so there’s bound to be plenty of eyes on that…

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