George Pell Julian Assange

Two of Australia’s most prominent international figures are living out their days in jail.

The first is convicted paedophile George Pell, who on Monday received a visit from former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott was caught by Seven News’ cameras leaving the Melbourne Assessment Prison where Pell is being held. He told reporters he was “simply visiting a friend”.

It wouldn’t be the first time Abbott has extended his support to Australia’s most senior Catholic.

When asked about the Victorian parliamentary inquiry’s 2013 finding that Pell had failed to respond appropriately to criminal child abuse claims, the then-prime minister said Pell was “in my judgement, a fine human being and a great churchman”. Abbott reportedly phoned Pell in February this year after the Cardinal’s guilty verdict was handed down.

Meanwhile, the government continues to ignore the legal battle of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who doctors fear could die inside the London prison where he is currently being held.

Assange is fighting the US’ attempts to extradite him over charges relating to his work in 2010 exposing classified US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, which could see him serving out a 175-year sentence.

Over 60 doctors from eight countries have signed an open letter urging that the 48-year-old be transferred to a hospital amid reports that he appears to be “exhibiting the symptoms of a torture victim”.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson is in Australia lobbying support for Assange, and will speak at the National Press Club today.

Some Australian politicians have emerged from the fray to campaign for Assange’s return to Australia. Labor backbencher Julian Hill told The Guardian in October that Australia “must be vigorously consistent in opposing extradition to countries where he might face the death penalty”. Barnaby Joyce and former foreign minister Bob Carr have also expressed similar concerns over Assange’s fate.

Peter Fray

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