Sydney: Hundreds of Australians rallied in
support of WikiLeaks and its Australian-born founder Julian
Assange on today, urging the government to stand up for the
rights of the 39-year-old former hacker.
The protests around the country came as activist group
GetUp! said that more than 50,000 people had signed a petition
supporting freedom of information, raising close to USD
250,000 to publish it in US newspapers.
The protests, which marked international human rights
day, criticised Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s comments that
Assange had acted illegally in relation to the leaking of
hundreds of US diplomatic cables.
"I absolutely condemn the placement of this information
on the WikiLeaks website -- it`s a grossly irresponsible thing
to do and an illegal thing to do," Gillard said earlier this
The prime minister has since stood by her comments,
saying that Australian police were investigating and adding
that the "foundation stone" of the leaks was an illegal act.
But at a protest outside Sydney`s central Town Hall,
about 400 people gathered to reject this idea, some carrying
banners such as "Merry Christmas -- and a leaky new year" and
"C`mon Julia, which law has Assange broken?"
And in Brisbane, those gathered outside the foreign
ministry`s office heard calls for a strong message to be sent
to governments all over the world protesting against the
treatment of Assange.
Get Up! said that Assange, who has been remanded in
custody in Britain on sex assault allegations from Sweden,
faced the prospect of being extradited to the US to face
charges related to the leaking of the sensitive cables.
"Regardless of what you think about WikiLeaks or Julian
Assange, we are really hoping that the government comes
forward and commits to some of those really basic principles
we live by, in terms of access to a fair trial and innocence
until proven guilty," spokesman Paul Mackay said.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said Assange was entitled to the
same consular support given any citizen in his situation, but
would not comment on whether Canberra had sought assurances
that Assange would not be sent to a third country.