Australia: Wikileaks may be a criminal offense

"Unauthorized obtaining" of documents "certainly involves criminality," says Australian A-G; opposition urges support for Assange.

December 9, 2010 11:12
1 minute read.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Wikileaks Julian Assange. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Australian government said Wikileaks may have committed a crime, as the actions of Australian ministers were revealed in leaked cables, Australian press agency AAP reported on Thursday.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland reportedly said that "unauthorized obtaining" of classified documents may be a punishable offense.

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"Certainly to release that sort of information by an officer of the commonwealth, if it were Australian material, would in my view certainly involve criminality," Mr McClelland reportedly said.

AAP reported that opposition leader Tony Abbot said on an Australian radio station: "Even people who've done the wrong thing have to be given the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence, and there doesn't appear to have been an enormous amount of that from the government."

Other opposition MPs and human rights organizations reportedly argued that the Australian government should support Wikileaks founder and Australian national Julian Assange in face of rape charges in Sweden, and provide him with consular assistance.

Wikileaks had provided an Australian newspaper with information a cable quoting Mark Arbib, now the Australian minister for sport, as giving US officials information on then-prime minister Kevin Rudd's attempts to curb the ambitions of now-Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Arbib said that Rudd was trying to "ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge," according to a US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.

Another cable suggested that Rudd was a "control freak."

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