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20 Dec, 2023 15:58

Washington monitored Australian rallies for ‘anti-US sentiment’ – Guardian

American diplomats also believed local media reporting on Julian Assange was “sensationalist,” the paper claims
Washington monitored Australian rallies for ‘anti-US sentiment’ – Guardian

The American embassy in Australia monitored rallies in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for “anti-US sentiment,” the Guardian has reported, citing declassified documents.

The US State Department has released the relevant files on a freedom of information request to Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi, who shared them with Guardian Australia, the outlet said in an article on Tuesday.

The documents detail the response of the US embassy in Canberra to events of 2010, when the WikiLeaks website published classified materials alleging American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan that Assange had received from US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

According to the declassified records, the US embassy’s regional security office (RSO) had been monitoring rallies in support of Assange that were held across Australia following the revelations and reported its findings to Washington via diplomatic channels.

“The demonstrations have all been peaceful and generally number in the range of a few hundred persons. Embassy RSO notes the rallies have featured very little, if any, anti-American sentiment,” a cable dated December 17, 2010, read, as cited by the Guardian.

“Wikileaks supporters held a recent demonstration in Canberra’s central business district and made no attempt to march to the US Embassy or direct any ire at other American interests,” it stressed.

However, the same file warned that Assange, who is an Australian citizen, had been “gaining increasing sympathy” in the country, “particularly on the left.”

The embassy also wrote to Washington that the Australian media “continues to have a field day with the leaked cables.” According to the diplomats, the reporting on the issue in the country had been “sensationalist.”

Assange, who has been held at the high security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, is now fighting his extradition to the US. In America, the journalist faces 17 charges under the US Espionage Act, which could see him slapped with a 175-year sentence.

The 52-year-old journalist has argued that he violated no laws and that his publication of top secret documents was legitimate journalism protected by the US Constitution. WikiLeaks said on Tuesday that the UK High Court of Justice in London would consider what could be Assange’s “final” appeal against being handed over to the US on February 20 and 21.