Julian Assange: Australians released after government lobbying

Julian Assange is officially a free man.
The founder of Wikileaks was completed this week in exchange for a sentence equal to the time he has served.
and his subsequent release were obtained after years of advocacy by his legal team and supporters, including the Australian government.

These are the stories of other Australians who have been helped by the government to be released from overseas prisons in recent years, and of those who are still being held overseas.

Cheng Lei

Journalist Cheng Lei worked as a presenter for the Chinese English-language state television channel CGTN accused of providing state secrets to a foreign country.
In 2022, the man with dual Chinese and Australian citizenship was tried behind closed doors in Beijing on national security charges.

Successive federal governments lobbied China for her release, with current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying her case was “the subject of ongoing discussions” between officials of both countries.

“Her release follows the completion of judicial processes in China,” he said afterwards .
“This is something we have been advocating for for a long time.”
After her release, : breaking an embargo just minutes after a briefing by Chinese officials.

Sean Turnell

Australian academic Sean Turnell worked in Myanmar as an economic policy advisor when he was arrested following the 2021 military coup.
In September 2022, for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act and Immigration Law.
Just two months later, as part of a prisoner amnesty to mark Myanmar’s National Victory Day.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the Australian government had worked “tirelessly” to secure Turnell’s release. He described his detention in Myanmar as “unjust”.

Kylie Moore Gilbert

British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport in September 2018 as she tried to leave Iran after appearing at a conference in the city of Qom.
She was accused of espionage – a charge she and the Australian government strongly denied – and .
After serving more than two years of her sentence in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons, in a complex prisoner exchange involving four countries.
A year after she was released, the initial tactic of quiet diplomacy was flawed.
She is now and called on the government to do more to secure their release.

Chau Van Kham

was in Vietnam in January 2019 when he was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on suspicion of terrorism.
Chau is a member of the Viet Tan, a US-based group that aims to establish liberal democracy in Vietnam through peaceful and political means. The Vietnamese government considers Viet Tan a terrorist organization.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges that he raised money for anti-state activities, took part in anti-Vietnam protests in Australia and recruited members for Viet Tan.

A man in a blue-collared shirt is led by the arm by a soldier wearing glasses and a green uniform.

Chau Van Kham (left) was arrested in Vietnam in 2019. Source: Getty / Getty Images

Vietnamese police also claimed that Chau entered Vietnam via Cambodia using a fake ID.

Chau was eventually released in July last year, just a month after the Albanians used an official visit to Vietnam to call for his release.

“We would like to thank the Australian government for their care and support during his custody, especially the tremendous efforts made by various departments to secure his return to Australia and his family,” Chau’s lawyer said after he was released.

Other Australians still stuck overseas

Successive Australian governments have lobbied for the release of who spent five years in a Chinese prison.
Yang was arrested at Guangzhou airport in 2019 on suspicion of espionage and . He has denied being a spy for Australia or the US, where he lived before his arrest.
And are among other Australians who have urged the government to do more to secure their release from overseas prisons.
According to figures, there are more than 300 Australians imprisoned abroad .
It is not known how many of them the Australian government believes are being arbitrarily detained or are lobbying for their release.
A DFAT spokesperson told SBS News it would “continue to provide support and consular assistance to Australians in difficulty overseas”.

Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press.

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