On Wednesday evening a Darker Net contributor attended a meeting on extradition at the House of Commons, London. Present was Gareth Peirce, Julian Assange’s lawyer. After that meeting a Wikileaks insider confirmed that Assange decided to seek political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy as a direct result of a letter his legal team received from Nicola Roxon, the Australian Attorney-General. The Letter from Roxon was in response to a letter written by Gareth Pierce and Jennifer Robinson (Assange’s Australian lawyer) formally requesting that the Australian Government provide Mr. Assange full protection given that he feared his life was in danger and that extradition to the USA could take place either in Sweden or in the UK. In her response Roxon wrote: ‘Australia would not expect to be a party to any extradition discussions that may take place between the United States and the United Kingdom or the United States and Sweden, as extradition is a matter of bilateral law enforcement co-operation.”
Mr Assange’s lawyers have characterised Ms Roxon’s reply as nothing less than a ”declaration of abandonment”. In addition, the Swedish Prosecution service had indicated they were about to implement the extradition warrant. Assange: ‘They tried to cancel the 14 days that I had here to apply to appeal the matter at the European Court of Human Rights’. Consequently, Assange felt he had no other choice but to remove himself from harms way and seek asylum. Meanwhile, the Australian Senate has passed a motion demanding PM Gillard fully support Assange.
Baroness Helena Kennedy, the distinguished human rights lawyer who was part of Assange’s earlier legal team, has stated that she believes Assange may be able to bargain an assurance that if he went to Sweden he would not then be extradited to the US. Currently negotiations are in progress.
Meanwhile, Michael Ratner, Assange’s US lawyer, confirmed (see video above) that Assange’s main fear was not facing questioning in Sweden but extradition to the USA, where he would likely face indefinite imprisonment in a high security penitentiary. Extradition, as his lawyer explains, is easier to effect from Sweden than it is in the UK. In Sweden it can be immediate. In the UK it can takes years. He added: “But let me just say, the other situation was so terrible, in my view, the extradition to Sweden, which was really—it’s not about the charges in Sweden. There’s no charges. It’s not about the allegations in Sweden or the interrogation. I think if the United States tomorrow said, “We will not be prosecuting WikiLeaks or Julian Assange, there will be no indictment of him, the grand jury is over,” etc., etc., I don’t think Julian Assange—I haven’t spoken to him about this—I don’t think he would have any issue about going to Sweden for interrogation on these charges. It’s really—what this is about is the United States wanting to get their hands on him, put him into an underground cell with no communications, giving him life imprisonment. And, of course, people have already called for his death in the United States. And he was faced with really a terrible situation, considering—considering that he is the person who, as a publisher and journalist, has exposed massive U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the WikiLeaks cables.”
Several of Mr.Assange’s backers, who provided bail money, have since said that they don’t care if they forfeit that money. On Twitter, Tariq Ali said ‘Fuck the money. Julian has my full support.’ Philip Knightley (Australian investigative journalist) offered similar sentiments. Other backers include Felix Denis (the Australian publisher of the infamous Oz magazine of the 1970s), Ken Loach (film director), Vaughan Smith (journalist) and Jemima Khan (commentator).
We also learn that Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer who represents the two women in Sweden who raised the allegations of sexual misconduct, was forced to appear yesterday before the Swedish Bar to face a disciplinary hearing for making prejudicial and inflammatory statements about Assange. It should be added, too, that the legal team representing Mr. Assange are adamant that the two women – Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen – were themselves railroaded by the Swedish Prosecution service. When Ardin and Wilen went to the police to query what had happened, it was the police who decided to take matters further. However, the Prosecution service disagreed and it was only much later that they decided to reverse that decision. It must be asked, what happened to cause that – US intervention?
For an excellent summary of Assange since he sought asylum, see article by Australian Wikileaks Citizens alliance.
Note on extradition… The current extradition arrangements between the UK and the USA (and similarly between Australia and the US and even worse between the USA and Sweden) is very much one-sided with nearly all requests coming from the USA and relating to people who are British citizens, who have not committed a crime under British law but who are considered enemies of the United States by the authorities there. Persons previously extradited under these arrangements to the USA receive no parole, are placed in solitary and end up disappearing forever in a penitentiary black hole. The UK Extradition Act was made law in 2003 by Tony Blair and is an abandonment of Habeus Corpus. These arrangements have caused disquiet within the UK Parliament and there is currently an Early Day Motion (ref. 128) scheduled, to look at how the extradition legislation can be amended. If the legislation is changed it may make it harder for people like Assange to be extradited from the UK to the USA.
Finally, Daniel Ellsberg on Assange’s asylum:
“Political asylum was made for cases like this. Freedom for Julian in Ecuador would serve the cause of freedom of speech and of the press worldwide. It would be good for us all; and it would be cause to honor, respect and thank Ecuador.”
For live updates, go to Wikileaks Central.
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