SHARE
COPY LINK
WIKILEAKS CONTROVERSY

R

Sweden denies plans to extradite Assange to US

The lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's has accused Swedish authorities of secretly planning to extradite him to the US in a German media report.

Sweden denies plans to extradite Assange to US
Attorney Mark Stephens and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at court on Tuesday

Attorney Mark Stephens told the weekly Die Zeit in an interview to be published on Thursday that he believed Swedish officials were cooperating with US authorities to extradite Assange as soon as the Americans have built a criminal case against him.

“We are hearing that the Swedish are prepared to drop the rape charges against Julian as soon as the Americans demand his extradition,” he said, citing sources in Washington and Stockholm.

Stephens called the Swedish charges against his client a “holding case” to buy time until the US can prosecute him themselves over WikiLeaks’ mass release of classified US documents.

A spokesman for the Swedish justice ministry sharply denied the allegations.

“That’s a lie. It is not true. There are no negotiations [with the US] in that field,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask’s spokesman Martin Valfridsson told AFP.

Valdfridsson reiterated that a Swedish prosecutor wanted to question Assange over allegations of sex offences and that if she determined there were grounds for a trial, those offences “would be the only thing that would be tried.”

Assange’s lawyer added his client did not believe he would receive a fair trial in Sweden, which was why he was fighting his extradition from Britain.

The Australian has been living at a supporter’s country estate in England since being released on bail on December 16th after his arrest by British police on a Swedish warrant.

Stephens said that he believed the “last station” of an extradition to Sweden would be “a high-security prison in the US.”

Assange’s lawyers released documents Tuesday saying that if the Australian is extradited to Sweden, there is a “real risk” he will face extradition or illegal rendition to the US, where he could be detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere and subject to the death penalty.

A British judge ruled Tuesday that Sweden’s bid to have him extradited would be heard in full on February 7th to 8th.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange about charges brought by two women that he sexually assaulted them, but the 39-year-old says the extradition attempt is politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks’ activities.

The whistleblowing website has released classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and from US diplomats stationed around the world.

A US court has reportedly subpoenaed the Twitter accounts of four WikiLeaks supporters as part of a widening criminal investigation into the leaks.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Sweden must demand that Julian Assange go free

Given Sweden’s involvement in the Assange case, the government’s continued silence over his impending extradition to the US is indefensible, says David Crouch

OPINION: Sweden must demand that Julian Assange go free

I have no personal fondness for Julian Assange. I cannot forgive him for not condemning the torrent of abuse and slander suffered by the two Swedish women who, in 2010, accused him of sexual assault. His treatment of them has been shameful. Assange has continued to protest his innocence and has not expressed any regret for what happened

But that was then and this is now. At stake is something much bigger than the fate of one man and two women. And the Swedish government bears a clear share of responsibility for the outcome. 

Sweden’s prosecutors dropped the sexual assault investigation against Assange in 2017. For more than three years, he has been held in a maximum security prison in London while he has fought extradition to the United States on espionage charges. In April, a British court finally approved the extradition and referred the matter to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. 

Today (June 17), Patel gave the green light for extradition; Assange has 14 days to appeal. 

Extradition would be a colossal blow against media freedom. Journalists would fear to investigate US military and surveillance operations around the world. Assange himself faces a lifetime in jail for publishing classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including evidence of war crimes

Many Swedish free speech organisations recognise this. “The information obtained thanks to Julian Assange and Wikileaks is of great public interest. In a democracy, whistleblowers must be protected, not taken to court to become pawns in a political game,” says the Swedish Journalists’ Association. A large number of press freedom and human right organisations have echoed these words, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship, to name but a few.

“Should Assange be extradited to the US, it could have serious consequences for investigative journalism,” says the Swedish branch of Reporters without Borders. “Through the indictment of Assange, the US is also sending a signal to all journalists who want to examine the actions of the US military and security services abroad, or US arms deals for that matter. This also applies to Swedish journalists.”

Last month, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called on Patel not to extradite Assange, saying it would have “a chilling effect on media freedom”.  Anna Ardin, one of the women who brought the original accusations of sexual assault, describes the accusations against Assange for espionage as “helt galet” (completely crazy). 

Given Sweden’s involvement in the Assange case, the continued silence from Rosenbad, the seat of government offices in Stockholm, is indefensible. 

For the seven years in which Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he said consistently and repeatedly that he was prepared to face justice in Sweden, but feared extradition to the United States and therefore required a guarantee that this would not happen. His treatment in the UK is proof that his fears were justified. 

As early as September 2012, The Local quoted Amnesty International on this matter: “If the Swedish authorities are able to confirm publicly that Assange will not eventually find himself on a plane to the USA if he submits himself to the authority of the Swedish courts then this will … it will break the current impasse and second it will mean the women who have levelled accusations of sexual assault are not denied justice.”

And yet, throughout, Sweden’s Ministry of Justice kept quiet. Instead, the Swedish Prosecution Authority stated repeatedly: “Every extradition case is to be judged on its own individual merits. For that reason the Swedish government cannot provide a guarantee in advance that Julian Assange would not be subject to further extradition to the USA.”

In 2016, a United Nations panel decided that Sweden had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It called on the Swedish authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his freedom of movement and offer him compensation. Again, the government itself remained silent, although Sweden’s director-general for legal affairs said that it disagreed with the panel.

Freedom of speech is one of the four “fundamental laws” that make up the Swedish constitution. There can be no excuse now for Morgan Johansson, Justice Minister, not to speak out in defence of Assange’s role as a whistleblower and journalist. 

Imagine if Assange had revealed Russian war crimes in Ukraine and was being held in Moscow’s high security prison? Every Western leader would be up in arms. 

Assange’s wife Stella Moris has Swedish citizenship. Her life, and that of their two children, will be destroyed if her husband, their father, is sent to rot in a US jail.

At this point in time, when Sweden’s independence in global affairs is in doubt owing to pressure from Turkey over its application to join Nato, it is even more vital for the government to break its silence and help bring the persecution of Julian Assange to an end. 

David Crouch covered Julian Assange’s campaign in the Swedish courts for The Guardian newspaper and is among 1900 journalists to have signed a statement in his defence. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University.

SHOW COMMENTS