The Speaker
Saturday, 25 May 2024 – 21:07

Assange should face Swedish and US extradition, say MPs

Following Julian Assange’s arrest at London’s Ecuadorian embassy on Thursday, over 70 MPs and peers have signed a letter pushing the Home Secretary to extradite the WikiLeaks co-founder to Sweden on rape allegations before he is sent to the US on different charges.

MPs decided to take to Twitter to pressure Sajid Javid to prioritise Swedish rape allegations against Assange first before he is extradited to the US regarding other charges.

Labour MP Stella Creasy shared the letter voicing her concerns about the crushing sexual misconduct allegations against WikiLeaks co-founder and stated Assange should face justice if the Swedish case is opened again following its dismissal in 2017.

She tweeted: “More than 70 MPs and peers have written to Sajid Javid and the shadow home secretary, Dianne Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the earlier Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request.”

The sexual misconduct case was only dismissed in 2017 because of the Swede’s inability to arrest Assange due to him seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, but now, if the alleged victim wishes to resume the case before it expires in August 2020 – Assange will most likely be extradited.

It is thought after he has faced Swedish courts – if the case is resumed – that he will then be extradited to the US in relation to allegations he was involved in one of the biggest ever leaks of US government classified information in 2010.

Already charged of conspiring to download top secret US databases and providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2013 was former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was released in 2017 having only served seven years of her 35-year sentence.

As it stands Assange is facing three possible convictions – 12 months for failing to surrender himself to UK courts in 2012; a maximum of five years regarding charges of conspiring to hack into US government databases; and the Swedish rape conviction which carries a sentence of up to 10 years if he is found guilty.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer of the alleged rape victim Tweeted on Thursday that the arrest came as a shock for her client and stated the news was what they had “been waiting and hoping for since 2012 has now finally happened”.

“No rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served,” she added.

However, not all MPs are for the 47-year-old’s extraditions, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeting that the US extradition should be opposed by the British government as Assange exposed “evidence” of atrocities committed in Iraq and Afghanistan – labelling him as a freedom fighter.

Shadow home secretary Dianne Abbott also championed this view, tweeting that Assange is being pursued for exposing “wrongdoing by US administrations”.

“In this country, we have protections for whistle-blowers, those who take personal risk to disclose wrongdoing in the public interest.

She added: “This is what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are ‘guilty’ of, exposing the murderous outcome of the US military assault on Iraq.”

The notion that Assange is, in fact, a journalist and freedom of expression activist have been highly contested and dismissed by the British government, with Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May saying his arrest showed that no-one is “above the law” – hinting that the extraditions will take place.

But for now, Assange and his legal team will continue campaigning for his freedom.

Speaking to reporters outside of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson said Assange knew an extradition request would be logged after his dismissal from the embassy.

“This sets a dangerous precedent for all journalist and media organisations in Europe and around the world – this precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States,” she added.

Julian Assange will be remanded in custody for now and sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at a date yet to be set for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 2 regarding US charges and possible extradition.

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