The fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is in the hands of UK home secretary Priti Patel, after the UK Magistrates Court last week issued an order to extradite the Australian to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 under the US Espionage Act.
Born in Townsville, Queensland in 1971, Assange is in his fourth year of detention in London's Belmarsh Prison in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur as psyhological torture after seven years avoiding capture in Britan's Ecuador Embassy protected by its diplomatic status.
The Wikileaks founder cannot expect compassion. His family, including his wife Stella with whom he has two small children, cling onto hope but are sombre about any prospect this will end well.
Wikileaks' 2010 publication of documents outlining allegations of US military misconduct during the Iraq war leaked by an ex-US Army serviceman, Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning), was damning and embarrassing for Washington.
In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for violations of the US Espionage Act and other offences, but her time was cut to four years by President Barack Obama.
"This is purely political," Assange's father John Shipton told me in Canberra last week while at a preview screening of the movie Ithaka in which he features on a quest to free his son. "There is no court case. This is entirely political. Intercession by Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese is now opportune."
The movie is showing at Dendy in Civic.
Shipton calls his son's 14-year saga a "judicial kidnapping", a farce and act of revenge. He wants Australians to urgently call their members of parliament and pressure Australia to help.
The US has given the UK diplomatic assurances Assange will not be subject to harsh isolation measures and will receive adequate health care.
Last week's decision suggests Britain courts are satisfied it is safe to turn Assange over to US authorities. The United States has apparently said Assange would be allowed to serve any US prison sentence in Australia.
The commitment is not legally binding. Promises Assange will be treated well are meaningless, according to barrister Greg Barns, an advisor to the Australian Assange campaign.
No Australian government has officially come to Assange's defence.
Current Foreign Minister Marise Payne says she raised the issue with her counterpart in the United States last year but has consistently said Australia is not a party to the legal case and "respects the ongoing legal process".
She also says she has offered consular assistance to Assange which he has rejected.
Shipton told the Canberra audience any claim the Morrison government is unable to act during the election caretaker mode is just an excuse. There's certainly no legal bar to Australia making representations to the UK home secretary. The case is not before a court.
Legally, it is unclear whether an Australian citizen operating out of London can be indicted and tried in the US for charges of espionage under US laws.
Australia has effectively acted as a client of the US, cooperating on this and other security matters with Washington, formally since the 1951 ANZUS Treaty.
It is a strategic member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US. The alliance is hostile to activities that challenge state secrets.
After WikiLeaks (and also leaks by Edwin Snowden exposing the surveillance techniques of Five Eyes nations) challenged the status quo, the Australian government moved to implement metadata laws it argued were necessary to help Australia's security services fight domestic terrorism but critics argued curb whistleblower activities.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and members of Australian Greens are his most vocal supporters. Wilkie has co-chaired a "Bring Julian Assange Home'' Australian parliamentary friendship group with former Liberal National member of parliament, now One Nation candidate George Christensen.
Shipton says there are 29 sympathetic Australian parliamentarians.
Among them is Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who as a backbencher in 2019 (and later) said Assange was not on US soil when he began releasing classified information and was owed Australian protection.
Anthony Albanese has said Assange has paid enough of a price - "enough's enough". Shipton is holding out for a Labor win, which he says would be a "great opportunity" to free Assange, perhaps with a prisoner exchange.
The May 21 federal election falls exactly at the end of the four-week period Patel has to sign off on the extradition.
The documentary showing in Canberra is named Ithaka after a poem by early 20th century Greek poet C.P. Cavafy. The poem describes Odysseus' journey back to his island home of Ithaka after the end of the Trojan War.
Assange's brother, the film's producer, Gabriel Shipton, says his dad John - who I found to be remarkably erudite and philosophical - would often listen to a recording of the poem after a difficult day campaigning to free Assange.
"You have to keep your destination in mind. It's not about arriving there but what you learn along the way," Gabriel told a Canberra audience in April.
The poem urges the travelling Odysseus not to let monsters sneak into his soul.
Assange has suffered a mini stroke and periodic bouts of depression. The monsters loom large and time is of the essence.
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