The wife of Julian Assange believes there has been a noticeable “shift” in the Australian government’s handling of her husband’s case since the country elected a Labor leader last month.
Stella Assange, who shares two children with Mr Assange, said Australia “can and should be speaking to its closest ally to bring this matter to a close”, calling the case an “aberration” that criminalises journalism.
“There’s definitely a shift,” she said of the new government’s approach. “It feels like we’ve been running a marathon for a long time… But now it feels like we have many people running alongside us and we might see the finish line.”
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Radio National on Monday morning, Ms Assange said her husband’s physical health has deteriorated during his three years at Belmarsh prison in London.
“It’s a nasty environment and it would deteriorate anyone’s health but he was already in a bad health situation when he entered the prison,” Ms Assange said, adding that her husband had suffered a “mini stroke” in October of last year.
“So his health was in decline and we’re extremely worried that he will at any moment have a catastrophic health episode inside Belmarsh prison without the ability to get emergency treatment – because that’s the nature of prisons, basically.”
The WikiLeaks co-founder is wanted by the US on 18 counts, including a spying charge, after his organisation published confidential military records and diplomatic cables. If convicted of breaching the Espionage Act, Mr Assange faces up to 175 years in jail.
Following the Home Secretary’s signing of an order to extradite Mr Assange to the US on Friday, reports emerged in Australian media that the newly elected Albanese government was lobbying its US counterparts behind the scenes to have him freed.
In a statement, the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was continuing to provide consular assistance to Mr Assange, but could not intervene. It also added that Mr Assange’s case had “dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a close”.
On Monday, Australia’s immigration minister Andrew Giles said prime minister Anthony Albanese had “made clear that enough was enough for Julian Assange and the treatment that he had been subjected to” in the case.
The Australian has spent more than three years in prison after spending years in the Ecuadorian embassy where he had been living since 2012.
Jennifer Robinson, lawyer for Mr Assange, told a press conference in London on Friday they would be appealing Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision to grant his extradition.