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Australia prepping 'contingency plan' for Assange US extradition

Published time: August 18, 2012 18:34
Edited time: August 19, 2012 16:59
Julian Assange (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Julian Assange (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Australian officials have confirmed that the country's diplomatic mission in Washington has been prepareing for Julian Assange's possible extradition to the US, but called it "contingency planning."

­The country's authorities say there is nothing unusual in the move, as the must be ready for all eventualities.

"The embassy is doing its job, just to be in a position to advise the government if it believed that an extradition effort was imminent. There is no evidence of such an extradition effort," Trade Minister Craig Emerson told ABC television.

The US could have sought Assange's extradition from Britain rather than waiting for him to arrive in Sweden, but "obviously they haven't done that,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Australian newspaper The Age reports that according to information obtained from diplomatic cables, the Washington mission is taking the possibility of extradition seriously. They also say the cables show that Australia has no objection to Assange's potential extradition.

The newspaper also says that Assange continues to be the subject of Australian intelligence reports citing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, confirming the existence of at least two intelligence reports concerning WikiLeaks and Assange from the Australian Embassy to the US in February and March this year.

Emerson did not comment on the claim that Australia would not oppose Assange's extradition to the US. He only said that Australia would adhere to "normal processes" and continue providing consular assistance.

"The legal processes have been followed, and… there's no particular role for Australia beyond ensuring that Mr. Assange has reasonable consular assistance, and that's what we're offering,” he declared.

On Thursday, Ecuador announced that it would grant the WikiLeaks founder political asylum, which he applied for in June. Quito said the asylum was granted over fears that if extradited to Sweden, Assange could be transferred to the US and once there, face execution.

In Sweden, the whistleblower is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations, but no charges have been filed against him.
Currently Assange remains at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as the UK has forcefully asserted that it will deny him safe passage to Ecuador.