Well done Minister – and there are two other Australians who need your help

media-releases

The Australian Greens today applauded the efforts of Foreign Minister Bob Carr in securing the release of Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and urged him to show the same vigour in defending Australian journalists Austin Mackell and Julian Assange.

The Greens communications spokesperson, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said Mr Mackell and Mr Assange need assistance from the Australian Government to protect their human rights.

"Last week the Senate passed a resolution on the pitfalls of inconsistent application of the Consular Services Charter. Far from being to deter the Foreign Minister or his Department acting as they have done in providing support to an Australian facing trouble overseas - it was to call attention to the fact that others have not received support consistent with the highest level provided to Australians abroad.

"The Minister's line in regards to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Mr Assange is wearing thin. We continue to hold grave concerns about his possible extradition to the United States to face espionage charges. Minister Carr claims there is not the remotest evidence of a United States Grand Jury investigation but in reality it has been widely reported - including in testimony given under oath at the Bradley Manning hearing.

"The Minister also needs to abandon his talking points on the US being more likely to extradite Assange from the UK. Former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger told the Associated Press the US would wait to see if he is prosecuted in Sweden and then seek his extradition, to avoid a clash between extradition attempts. The same point was made by the US Ambassador to the UK in 2010. Mr Assange needs fewer excuses from his government and more of the forthright engagement Minister Carr has demonstrated on the behalf of Ms Taylor."

In regards to Austin Mackell, the young Australian journalist has been banned from leaving Egypt and faces a possible seven years in prison on trumped-up, highly-politicised charges.

"Mr Mackell and his associates were arrested in Egypt in March this year in an attempt by the military junta in that country to silence opposition. The arrest of individuals for bringing attention to the strikes by workers and students in Mahalla, and the threatened prosecution of a journalist for doing his job, are serious attacks on freedom of the press and a clear case of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - SCAF - attempting to bully opponents and silence dissent," said Senator Ludlam.

"Mr Mackell was accused of paying Egyptians to protest - in keeping with the regime's self-serving claims that foreigners are responsible for any discontent in Egypt. Egypt was in its second day of a general strike when Mr Mackell was arrested. Strikes were occurring in Mahalla before he and his colleagues even reached the town. The allegation that a freelance Australian journalist was responsible for the unrest in Mahalla is ridiculous.

"For nearly five months, Mr Mackell has been under a travel ban in Egypt. His photograph was featured in state-run media alongside allegations he is a spy, and as a result it is dangerous for him to go out in public. Generic advertisements accusing foreigners of being spies also ran on state television for some time, and still run on private channels.

"The most recent development is that Mr Mackell's case file has finally made its way to the Cairo office of the General Prosecutor where a final decision should shortly be made regarding whether to set a trial date or archive his case.

"Mr Mackell has praised embassy and consular staff for their efforts to assist him as far as practicable but their purview is limited. Now is a vital time for the Australian Government to make direct representations at the highest level to Cairo on behalf of Mr Mackell and, as far as possible, for his associates.

"I applaud the minister's enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of Ms Taylor and urge the minister to take an equally vigorous approach in the cases of Mr Mackell and Mr Assange."