For the first time, the American president speaks in a moderate tone on the Assange affair. The relationship with Australia and the upcoming election campaign are likely to play a role.

Protesters gather to support Julian Assange on the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment in Belmarsh Prison.

Julian Assange has been held in a maximum security prison in London for five years Photo: Vuk Valcic/imago

Nothing has been won yet: the Australian citizen and founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, remains detained in the British high-security Belmarsh prison, as he has been for five years, and is legally defending his extradition to the US, where will be hospitalized. tried for “espionage”. But for the first time, US President Joe Biden said publicly on Wednesday that the US would “consider” dropping charges against Assange.

This was preceded by an Australian Parliament resolution in February. By 86 votes to 42, parliamentarians called on the United States and the United Kingdom to stop persecuting Assange and allow him to return home. Now Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has adopted this position. Australia is allied with Britain and the United States in the Aukas military alliance, and this is becoming more important because the United States is considering bringing in Japan so it can act more forcefully against China.

Whether this is the reason for Biden's at least hinted at rethinking remains speculation. What is certain is that Biden has nothing to gain in domestic politics in the US election year if he continues to pursue Assange, but everything to lose. The progressive wing of his party, already angered by Biden's continued military support for Israel in the Gaza war, would have more reason to reject him if Assange arrived in the United States in handcuffs and in poor health. The president needs nothing less in his attempt to win again the November 5 presidential election against Donald Trump.

Both reasons, domestic and foreign policy, would be misguided: Assange, as an editor of material that documented American war crimes, simply should not be charged with any charges if press freedom is taken seriously as a value. But at this advanced stage, it matters little why Assange finally leaves the cell: above all, he needs to be freed.