Australian PM Albanese raises Assange's detention with U.S. officials


FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Julian Assange displays a placard, outside the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, Britain April 20, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has raised the issue of the continued detention of Julian Assange in meetings with United States officials and seeks to bring the matter to a close, he said on Wednesday.

In June, Britain approved the extradition to the United States of the Wikileaks founder, who is an Australian citizen, to face criminal charges on the release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables.

Albanese said he would continue to advocate for Assange's release, even though he disagreed with him on "a whole range of matters".

"I have raised this personally with representatives of the United States government," Albanese told parliament.

"My position is clear, and has been made clear to the U.S. administration, that it is time that this matter be brought to a close."

Assange spent seven years in Ecuador's embassy in London, when he was wanted by Swedish authorities on a sexual assault charge that has since lapsed.

However, he was dragged out and jailed by Britain in 2019 for breaching his bail conditions, and has stayed in prison in London while his extradition case was decided.

Detractors say Assange endangered U.S. national security with the release of the classified documents in 2010. Supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero victimised for exposing U.S. wrongdoing, such as in the Afghan and Iraq conflicts. ]

If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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