Lawyer telling Assange not to return to Sweden


9:03 am - December 23rd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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In an interview with Sir David Frost on Al-Jazeera yesterday, Julian Assange said his lawyers had advised him that staying in the UK was much safer.

He said he wanted to avoid going to Sweden because it was more “dangerous” than the UK for his personal safety.

Sir David Frost: “Do you fear that you will end up in an American jail?”

Julian Assange: “That’s a problem. My lawyers certainly feel that I will end up in an American jail – directly through extradition from here or extradition from Sweden.”

Frost: “Which would be more dangerous to you?… Are you equally vulnerable from either?”

Assange: “The advice from my lawyers is that Sweden is much more dangerous… because there is political… the way these extradition treaties are done, there is usually an exemption for political reasons. You don’t have to extradite someone if it’s a political issue. Espionage is the classical political offence.”

Many say that Assange is more at risk in the UK than Sweden because of their individual treaties with the US.

But the view in the Assange camp seems to be that Sweden is under much more political pressure than the UK (where politicians have said surprisingly very little about WikiLeaks).

Assange also defended WikiLeaks against accusations that it was harming people.

We have a 4 year publishing history. During that time we have published millions of documents.

There is not a single incident of anyone being physically harmed by what we’ve done. There’s not even a single incident of a government alleging that we have – not even the Pentagon alleged that.

In fact the Pentagon admits it cannnot find a single incident of anyone being harmed.

Full interview below

In related news, the UN representative for freedom of opinion and expression told Australian media yesterday that he didn’t think that the US government would be able to make a case against Julian Assange.

But he warned it would set a very bad example for free speech if it did take action against him.

Interviewer: “The US Government seems pretty determined to find some way of charging Julian Assange. Who do you think is going to win this battle?”

UN representative: “I will hope certainly that the principle of freedom of expression is the one that prevails because I believe that even if the US feels embarrassed it will be a bad example if anyone is harassed or charged or prosecuted for that.”

The full interview is here

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Funnily enough, Assange’s lawyer doesn’t get the final say on this. Perhaps a better header would be ‘Why Assange doesn’t want to go to Sweden’.

If Assange’s afraid of being extradited to the USA he’s better off in Sweden. If he’s afraid of being tried for rape he’s better off here.

Assange: “The advice from my lawyers is that Sweden is much more dangerous… because there is political… the way these extradition treaties are done, there is usually an exemption for political reasons. You don’t have to extradite someone if it’s a political issue. Espionage is the classical political offence.”

Hmm. I think that is, to put it politely, idiotic. Extradition treaties should not have exemptions to allow people to be extradited because politicians want it, because that is not justice. And I think someone, somewhere, might have noticed this and commented on it were it the case – anyone on here ever heard this before.

And espionage is an offence, but I would be very surprised if any country in the world had a definition of espionage that meant Mr Assange could be extradited under it. The ‘spy’ was Mr Manning, not Mr Assange, who at best could be charged with the equivalent of receiving stolen goods (not a political crime…).

Mr Assange may be right on the importance of freedom of information, but I am increasingly getting the impression that he is otherwise a paranoid conspiracy nut.

Lawyers may ocassionally sound paranoid, because they are paid good money to consider the very worst possibilities – even if they aren’t very likely.

Of course, it’s possible that Assange is lying about his lawyers telling him that.

“Funnily enough, Assange’s lawyer doesn’t get the final say on this.”

If I was facing serious criminal charges, I’d probably take seriously what my lawyer says though.

“. The ‘spy’ was Mr Manning, not Mr Assange, who at best could be charged with the equivalent of receiving stolen goods (not a political crime…).”

The problem is the US “justice” system doesn’t work like that. The tendancy is for authorties to charge you with everything you’ve ever done wrong – including trivial stuff like downloading MP3s, add a few more spurious charges to the list, and all of sudden you are looking at decades of jail time. They then come to you with a plea bargin arrangement where you plead guilty in exchange for just a few years. Most people take the deal rather than gamble with their life. Particularly given the appalling human rights violations that routinely occur in US prisons.

So even if the authorities could only make a recieving stolen goods charge stick, he’d probably face much more serious charges in the begining – including espionage ones carrying the death penalty. Which would at the very least see him denied bail and placed with the most violent criminals in the system, most of whom could be easily persuaded by the CIA to murder him, and probably wouldn’t even need CIA involvement anyway seeing as he is public enemy no 1 in the US redneck white supremist community.

I’m agreeing with comments 1, 2 & 3.

The more self-justification you hear from Assange and Assangists the worse it looks. Shows you the perils of placing so much faith in Supermen and leaders, doesn’t it?

Oh, and by the way, in his Radio 4 interview he distinctly was heard to say that some Wikileaks people had been assassinated. Is this another fantasy amongst the many that seem to inhabit his mind, or is it true?

Then why didn’t assange meet with Swedish officials whilst here instead?

This is quite a normal thing to do ref questioning where returning to the country of jurisdiction isn’t possible, practical or as here, desired?

Assange could slaying have applied for uk police to question and investigate. Why is this not being considered by Assange’s lawyer?

The more he feeds his media spotlight addiction, the more questions appear regarding Swedengate.

Planeshift is right here. If I were even potentially wanted for a political crime in a country that had a justice system as flaky as that in the US – then I would fight tooth-and-nail to avoid being sent there, whether I was 100% innocent or guilty as hell (see: Gary McKinnon). And if my lawyer told me that I would be more likely to end up being extradited to the US if I was in Sweden than in the UK, then I’d believe him.

(note: this neither means that I believe Assange’s lawyer really told him that, nor that if he did, he was correct to do so. Just that I’d go by what a reputable, respected solicitor used to handling extradition hearings told me on the subject, not on what people said on the Internet).

Simon: Swedish prosectors *refused to meet with Assange in the UK*, not the other way round. I believe this is because of the way due process works under Swedish law, rather than because they’re arseholes, but I’m open to correction.

Agree with Simon H @ 7

If the Swedes are so keen on interviewing him why not come here? British police went to Portugal after the disappearance of Madeline McCann.

The views off the lawyer acting for the two women, Claes Borgström, might explain why the case was re-opened at the same time as the release of the wikileaks in the papers.

“Since 2008 he is….the Swedish Social Democratic Party’s spokesperson on gender equality issues.

Borgstrom has often attracted attention with a series of controversial proposals and moves. He claims that all men carry a collective guilt for violence against women, and has in this context supported Gudrun Schyman’s “Tax on Men”.

He also attracted attention in march 2006 when he demanded that Sweden boycott the 2006 World Cup in Germany “in protest against the increase in the trafficking in women that the event is expected to result in”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claes_Borgstr%C3%B6m

Watchman: “And espionage is an offence, but I would be very surprised if any country in the world had a definition of espionage that meant Mr Assange could be extradited under it.”

Try reading what is being said in the mainstream US press: they want to try Assange as an accessory to espionage by getting Bradley Manning to ‘confess’ that Assange was an accomplice. Try also reading about the extreme – and almost certainly illegal – pressure they are putting on Bradley Manning to achieve this. If they are prepared to risk being publicly indicted for pre-trial torture in order to make a public example of Assange, logically they will be prepared to do other illegal things too.

There is a widespread and open consensus in the Republican Party (which controls the US Congress now) for him to be killed without trial by means of officially classifying him as a terrorist. Rather than opposing this sentiment, Obama’s Vice-President, Joe Biden, has also chosen to publicly describe him as a terrorist. He didn’t say he should be classed as a military target, but the logical implication of his words is obvious.

I suppose only ‘conspiracy nuts’ heard these people say these things. Sane people knew they were just joking around, perhaps. Too paranoid? I’m surprised he doesn’t sound a lot more paranoid. I’m surprised he still sounds passably sane.

“?” said: “Shows you the perils of placing so much faith in Supermen and leaders, doesn’t it?”

Sounds like projection to me. It is you that is calling for people to have dangerous levels of unquestioning faith in powerful institutions and leaders. I have no “faith” in Assange personally: I merely support his right to upset the powerful by publishing embarrassing documents.

From a pragmatic point of view I’m sure the US would prefer that Assange was in Sweden. Here’s how the US would want this scenario to play out.

1. Get the Swedish authorities to leak selected aspects of the trial so that Assange is convicted by the media before trial.

2. Conduct a show trial using a politically motivated prosecutor and lean on other members of the judiciary who may have secrets to hide, (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8202745/WikiLeaks-Swedish-government-hid-anti-terror-operations-with-America-from-Parliament.html)

3. Once convicted, arrange extradition to the US for the now known ‘rapist’ Assange – who’s support by then will have dried up amongst the Swedish population. Swedish politicians will be happy to oblige as they risk no political capital by allowing it to go ahead.

4. Once extradited the US government will simply drag it’s heels and maximise the complexity and expense of the trial to ensure that funds for a thorough defence dry up (who’s going to be making the effort to donate to a known rapist who’s stuck an expensive trial in the US in say five years time?). Finally conduct a show trial on trumped up charges and gain a successful conviction.

5. If all goes according to plan allow Assange to rot in jail for life. If not you will have kept Assange out of action and Wikileaks on the backburner for say ten years. It’s a win – win strategy for the US and ensures that no one will ever have the temerity to be involved in publicising mega leaks in the future.

Steps one and two are already underway and as extradition for questioning is virtually unheard of the fact that Sweden are pursuing this unusual strategy would be indicative that the proper process of law is already going astray.
For Assange the key difference between being in Sweden and in the UK is point three. Any politician who is part of a decision to extradite Assange to the US runs a serious risk of exhausting their political capital.

Assange’s concerns about being extradited are therefore valid. Once in Sweden he’s on a fast track to nowhere except a small cell in the US for a very long time.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Noxi

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  3. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: Why Assange isn't going back to Sweden: lawyer says no http://bit.ly/g17DC0

  4. sunny hundal

    Assange says in intvw he isn't going back to Sweden because lawyer says it's too dangerous http://bit.ly/g17DC0

  5. Paddy Eden

    RT @sunny_hundal: Assange says in intvw he isn't going back to Sweden because lawyer says it's too dangerous http://bit.ly/g17DC0

  6. Get Political Fund » Blog Archive » Why Assange isn't going back to Sweden: lawyer says no | Liberal …

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  7. Judy

    RT @June4th Frost interview of Julian Assange http://bit.ly/g17DC0 |Thanks, N!

  8. Stephen Parker

    RT @HeyJude408: RT @June4th Frost interview of Julian Assange http://bit.ly/g17DC0 |Thanks, N!





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