Wikileaks founder Assange urges Oz govt to ensure safe return to Melbourne

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Melbourne, Feb 1 (ANI): Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has urged the Australian government to ensure his safe return to his hometown, Melbourne, ahead of his extradition hearing over allegedly sexually assaulting two Swedish women.

Ahead of his Friday's hearing on his extradition case in London, Assange's recorded plea that would be played at a free speech forum at Federation Square on Friday, is expected to be heard by hundreds of Melburnians.

The Age quoted Rob Stary, the defence lawyer who is a member of Assange's Melbourne law team, as saying that the Australian-born journalist thanked his country's supporters, particularly Melburnians, in his ten-minute recording.

''He wants to return to Australia, he wants to return safely here, knowing he'll have the support of the government. He insists that the government intervene to protect him. Of course we have witnessed the government not protecting him but rather taking a hostile attitude to him without any foundation," Stary said.

He further said that Assange intends to return to Melbourne, where he earned huge support for his mission, to make world governments more transparent and accountable, the paper said.

Last Year, Australian prime Minister Julia Gillard had termed Assange's role in leaking hundreds of secret US diplomatic cables as 'illegal', merely two weeks before an Australian Federal Police investigation found him not guilty to have committed a crime in Australia.

"She knew there was an Australian Federal Police investigation pending when she made those comments ... and yet she was prepared to say at that point, prior to any finding of the AFP, that he behaved unlawfully and reprehensibly. We've been concerned that kind of rhetoric coming out of the government has been damaging and in his address he has asked the Government to intervene to support him," Stary added.

He further said that the founder of the whistleblower website still holds an Australian passport and that there was no basis for his travel documents to be suspended or cancelled.

He however said that Australian government should assure him that he would not be handed over to the US on his return to Canberra. (ANI)

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