Assange case relies on US guarantees: Sweden

Sweden said Tuesday it was up to Washington to give WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who fears the US wants to prosecute him for divulging state secrets, the guarantees he has sought from Stockholm.

Assange case relies on US guarantees: Sweden

Swedish police want to question Assange over allegations of rape and sexual assault, but the Australian activist says the accusations are politically motivated and that Sweden would eventually extradite him to the US to face trial and a possible death penalty.

If Sweden were to receive an extradition request from a country that practices capital punishment, such as the US, “guarantees must come from the other state (requesting extradition) that … the death penalty will not be handed down or carried out,” Swedish justice ministry advisor Per Hedvall told AFP.

“The guarantees do not come from our side, they have to come from the other end,” he said.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for two months after a British court in June ruled he could be extradited to Sweden for questioning, and Ecuador last week granted Assange asylum.

In a bid to break the deadlock, WikiLeaks has urged Sweden to guarantee it would not extradite Assange to the US.

Swedish law and the European human rights convention ratified by Sweden ban extradition of a defendant to a country where he could face the death penalty.

Hedvall refused to speak about Assange’s case in particular and stressed his remarks regarded Swedish legislation in general.

He said that when an extradition request is issued for a crime that doesn’t carry the death penalty, “each case is reviewed based on the legislation in that individual case”, but then “Swedish legislation does not provide for guarantees.”

Stockholm has received no extradition request from Washington.

Washington said Tuesday it had nothing to do with efforts by Britain to extradite Assange to Sweden, and denied Assange’s allegations it was carrying out a “witch-hunt” against him.

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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.