The UK is “considering” dropping the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, following a request from the Australian government.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in February supported a motion calling for Mr Assange’s return to his native Australia. When questioned about the request by reporters at the White House on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said “we’re considering it”.

The Australian, aged 52, faces prosecution in the UK over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information. This followed the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thursday will mark five years since he was taken to Belmarsh prison in London, having been removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been staying. During a two-day court hearing in February, lawyers for Mr Assange requested permission to bring an appeal against his extradition to the UK.

Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson dismissed most of his legal arguments, but said unless assurances were given by the UK around what would happen to him, he would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds. These would include a breach of freedom of expression and fears he might receive the death penalty.

Mr Assange’s wife, Stella, called the judges’ decisions to delay their ruling as “utterly bizarre” and later told Sky News’ The World with Yalda Hakim her and her husband’s greatest fear is his death.

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said Mr Assange should not be sent to the UK, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against him on all other issues. Later that year, UK authorities won their High Court bid to overturn this block, paving the way towards his extradition.

A final hearing will potentially take place in late May, with judges giving UK authorities three weeks to give assurances. Events will be held around the world on Thursday as Mr. Assange’s family and supporters continue to campaign for his release.

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