MELBOURNE, Australia (NEWSnet/AP) — Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Thursday he hopes for an amicable end to the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Lawmakers increased pressure on the United States and Britain with a motion urging the Australian citizen to be allowed to return to his home country.

Albanese told Parliament that the days before London’s High Court hears Assange’s appeal against extradition to the United States on espionage charges are a “critical period.”

“I hope this can be resolved. I hope it can be resolved amicably. It’s not up to Australia to interfere in the legal processes of other countries, but it is appropriate for us to put our very strong view that those countries need to take into account the need for this to be concluded,” Albanese said.

At a news conference in London, Assange’s wife said the hearing is a matter of life and death, as her husband’s health continues to deteriorate in prison and she fears he will die there.

“His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison,” Stella Assange said. “If he’s extradited, he will die.”

Assange faces a two-day hearing starting Feb. 20 in High Court regarding whether he should be granted appeal to challenge extradition. If he loses at that stage, he will have exhausted all judicial avenues in England and his supporters fear he could be sent to the U.S. before he is able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Albanese was among the 86 lawmakers who voted for the motion that urged United States and Britain to bring the matter to a close. The motion was opposed by 42 lawmakers..

Leaders of both the government and the opposition have  stated that the United States’ pursuit of the 52-year-old had continued for too long.

Assange has been in London’s Belmarsh Prison since his arrest in 2019 for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Prior to that, he spent seven years at Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Sweden dropped that investigation in 2019, because so much time had elapsed.

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