Assange 'has not broken Australian law'

2010-12-17 08:10

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Sydney - Police in Australia have concluded that WikiLeaks and its Australian-born founder Julian Assange have not broken any laws in his home country by publishing classified US documents, the government said on Friday.

The finding has no direct bearing on investigations in the United States into the original leaking of the thousands of classified diplomatic documents to Assange's organisation, or the sexual assault allegations for which he is wanted in Sweden.

But it will come as good news to Assange, who has complained of persecution by the Australian government over the publication of the documents, which have outraged Washington and been condemned by the United States and its allies.

Assange has not said he wants to return to Australia, though his mother and son both live in the country.

The government said last month it had ordered Australian Federal Police to determine whether WikiLeaks had broken any Australian laws by publishing the US cables. Reports of documents obtained by WikiLeaks have included classified reports from the US Embassy in Canberra to the State Department.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday said the police had now reported back to the government.

Condemnation

"The advice is that there has been no breaches of Australian law," Gillard told reporters.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland gave a little more information, saying in a statement that, on the current information available, police had not identified any criminal offenses within Australia's jurisdiction so no formal investigation had been launched.

Gillard again condemned WikiLeaks for publishing the documents, saying it was "grossly irresponsible". The government has said publication of the internal documents could harm relations between governments.

She said whoever leaked the documents to WikiLeaks had clearly broken US laws. She said that theft was appropriately being investigated by US authorities. Australian officials have said they are assisting US authorities in that investigation.

Assange was released on bail on Thursday from a London jail, where he was being held in connection to the Swedish sexual molestation allegations. Assange has denied any wrongdoing, but has said that he is concerned that if he goes to Sweden he may eventually be sent to the United States on charges related to the leaks.

No such charges have been laid, but US officials are investigating whether Assange could be charged in US court under the Espionage Act or face other crimes - such as theft of government property or receipt of stolen government property.

The US government suspects WikiLeaks received the documents from an Army private, Bradley Manning, who is in the brig on charges of leaking other classified documents to the organisation.


- AP

Read more on:    wikileaks  |  julia gillard  |  julian assange  |  australia  |  security
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