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Stella Assange thanks Australian lawmakers for WikiLeaks founder’s freedom

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Stella Assange thanked the spectrum of lawmakers who campaigned for her husband, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to be freed during her visit Thursday to Australia’s Parliament House, where political leaders differed over how welcome the convicted felon was in his homeland.

“Julian is overjoyed and so grateful to the Australian people, to the members of Parliament and to the government and also the opposition who came together to voice the need for his release,” Stella Assange said.

Assange has made no public comment since he arrived in Australia on Wednesday after pleading guilty to obtaining and publishing U.S. military secrets in a deal with U.S. Justice Department prosecutors that ended his 14-year legal battle for freedom.

The Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group began with a few federal lawmakers in 2019 and expanded to 47 — one of five of the total in Canberra — as a consensus grew that the prosecution over WikiLeaks’ release of almost half a million documents relating to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010 had taken too long.

His lawyers now want to swing that public and political support behind a campaign to have Assange’s conviction pardoned.

“President (Joe) Biden or any subsequent president absolutely can and, in my mind, should issue a pardon to Julian Assange,” lawyer Barry Pollack said.

But while Australian lawmakers largely agreed that the time had come for Assange to be brought home, they disagreed on whether he deserved the same level of support as Australians recently released from arbitrary detention in China, Iran and Myanmar thanks to government intervention.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been credited with the diplomatic coup that enabled Assange