WikiLeaks to apply for Swedish licence

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has revealed that he will submit a formal application this week for a Swedish publishing licence (utgivningsbevis) in order to guarantee that the website is covered by Swedish whistleblower protection laws.

Legal experts have speculated that the site may not be covered by Swedish legislation shielding journalists’ sources unless it obtains a licence. Assange said WikiLeaks had already been offered protection by two Swedish newspapers but would still press ahead with obtaining a licence, though he also suggested that the safeguard might not prove sufficient.

“We’re dealing with organizations that don’t obey the law. We’re dealing with intelligence agencies,” he told news agency TT.

Assange highlighted the importance of Sweden to WikiLeaks’ work during his stay in the country as a guest of the Swedish Association of Christian Social Democrats.

“Sweden is vital for our work. We have had long-term support from the Swedish people and the Swedish legal system. Our servers were initially based in the United States and moved to Sweden early on in 2007,” he said.

Assange also indicated that WikiLeaks was not alone in benefiting from Swedish freedom of expression laws.

“There’s actually a small industry in Sweden; a new sort of refugee exists in the world, which is publishers. It is I think something for Swedes to be quite proud of: that they are facilitating a strong and free press,” he said.

The pentagon recently called on WikiLeaks to halt the publication 70,000 leaked classified documents from the US-led war in Afghanistan. But Assange has instead vowed to press ahead with the publication of a further 15,000 secret documents.

“We understand that there are no easy choices for this organization. We have a duty to get the truth out to the world, the truth out to the Afhani people. We have a duty to people who are mentioned in the material. We have a duty to our sources, and it has hard to balance all those duties. It is a very expensive and difficult process.”

Assange said he was aware of foreign minster Carl Bildt’s assertion that Sweden and the United States were not engaged in formal talks over the leaks. But he added that informal talks surrounding WikiLeaks were “standard procedure” in other countries.

“I would imagine that informal talks have been established in Sweden but we’re waiting for proof of that.”

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Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.