Assange's family take campaign to Mexico

·2-min read

This week, the objective was to insert mention of Julian Assange into a meeting between Mexico's president and the United States' top diplomat.

Next week, it will be to have Australia's prime minister bring it up with the US president at Queen Elizabeth II's funeral.

The efforts are part of a campaign by John Shipton, father of the Australian WikiLeaks founder, to find allies and convince the US to drop espionage charges against Assange, who remains in a British prison awaiting extradition to the United States.

The journey by the septuagenarian Australian architect together with another son, Gabriel, brought them this week to Mexico.

The country has become the family's main ally in Latin America since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - who on Monday met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken - offered Assange political asylum and called for the US to allow him to seek refuge there.

"We call President Lopez Obrador an ice-breaker", because afterward the leaders of Chile, Colombia and Bolivia repeated the release call, Gabriel Shipton said during the visit to Mexico.

Among a packed scheduled of events, John Shipton received the key to the capital on Wednesday on behalf of Assange, a ceremonial honour the city bestows on distinguished guests.

The day before, he addressed Mexico's Senate.

American prosecutors say Assange helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.

The Australian faces 17 charges of espionage and one of computer misuse.

His defenders consider Assange a symbol of a free press and a fight for justice who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange was arrested in London in 2010 at the request of Sweden on alleged sexual assault charges, which he has consistently denied.

In 2012, he broke the conditions of his bail and sought refuge in Ecuador's embassy where he stayed until being asked to leave in 2019. He was immediately re-arrested.

John Shipton was estranged from Assange until his 20s, according to a documentary called Ithaka, produced by Gabriel Shipton, which suggests a complicated relationship.

Uncomfortable with media, but conscious that he needs them, John Shipton questions them constantly, telling them Assange's case directly affects their ability to continue reporting freely.

His visit to Mexico will finish with his participation in Independence Day activities on Thursday night and Friday.

Lopez Obrador invited Shipton to events alongside relatives of Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara, in what appeared to be an attempt to evoke emblematic figures of the 20th century.

The Shiptons plan to continue their efforts in Latin America next year, hoping Brazil's Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva returns to the presidency.

"You just take each moment as it comes and you do your very best you can," Shipton said.

"You don't depend upon optimism, hope, you just do your work."