A barrister and adviser to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argues that any intended prosecution of him by the US or Sweden may have been severely compromised. And as such, that would invalidate any extradition request from either of those countries.
Consequences of US political interference
Commentary on Assange and WikiLeaks by US politicians has been rife. For example, CIA chief Mike Pompeo described WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”. There have also been numerous threats (including death threats) against Assange from the US, including by senior politicians:
- Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin demanded that Assange be “hunted down like the Al-Qaeda leadership”.
- In 2010, former US vice-president Joe Biden referred to Assange as a “high-tech terrorist”.
- Former political operative and media pundit Bob Beckel suggested in 2011 that the US should assassinate Assange, saying: “A dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor… treasonous. And he has broken every law of the United States… And I’m not for the death penalty, so… there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch”.
Australian lawyer and Assange adviser Greg Barns told The Canary:
These threats are clearly material to a permanent stay application.
Barns explained how, if it can be shown that prejudicial comment reached saturation point, there’s an argument for saying it would be impossible for Assange to get a fair trial.
In other words, these threats by leading figures would likely prejudice any case brought against Assange.
Privileged communications compromised
The concept of legal professional privilege refers to client-lawyer confidentiality and remains a cornerstone of the English legal system. If that confidentiality is breached, any legal case under consideration could be regarded as invalid.
#Ecuador must disclose the details of the Rogatory Commission from the US DOJ requesting all the belongings of a journalist, Julian #Assange, an arbitrary and disproportionate request. Are there more investigations open against the @wikileaks founder? #Lawfare
— Renata Avila (@avilarenata) May 13, 2019
WikiLeaks previously suggested that these developments began with a fake news story in the Guardian:
BREAKING: On Jan 7 DoJ issued letters rogatory to interrogate six former diplomats & staff at Ecuador's London embassy following Guardian's fabricated story of Assange-Manafort meetings. Ecuador scheduled all to be interrogated tomorrow in Quito
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2019
The Canary previously reported on this fake news story, revealing that former Ecuadorian consul Fidel Narváez was adamant that Manafort had never visited the London embassy. We followed that article with evidence of who was behind the fake news.
Now, internationally renowned judge Baltasar Garzón has condemned this collusion between Ecuador and the US:
Ecuador has been sequestering Assange’s belongings since his arrest. Now we know why: To hand them over to the US in violation of international law. Ecuador’s vile behaviour is not new as they have been sending information on Assange to the US for months.https://t.co/L9e69EEgHR pic.twitter.com/Z6b3CYQcvp
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 12, 2019
Overreach of CPS
And it doesn’t end there.
The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) may have also overstepped its role in its liaison over several years with its Swedish equivalent in regard to alleged sexual offences committed by Assange. (Swedish authorities have just reopened one investigation at the request of the alleged survivor’s lawyer.)
In August 2012, in response to an article saying Sweden could withdraw the warrant against Assange, a CPS staffer (name redacted) warned Sweden’s director of public prosecutions Marianne Ny:
Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!
Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson commented:
We had been offering the Swedish prosecutors Assange’s testimony since October 2010. We didn’t know at the time that the CPS was advising them not to take up the offer.
The sheer amount of email exchanges between the two prosecution services is possibly unprecedented:
But these are by no means all the correspondence, for it is believed many emails were destroyed by the CPS. According to Robinson:
The CPS has disclosed some material which is very limited. We know there is more.
This overreach could be considered political. The Canary believes that no allegations of sexual assault or rape should ever become politicised by either side.
The above offers three examples of why the authorities in the US, Britain and Sweden may have compromised the cases they could present against Assange. And the charges referred to in the US indictment against Assange can be challenged too, in terms of their viability.
But whatever proceeds next, the law must always demonstrate it is above political interference. To do otherwise threatens the integrity of that law and does a great disservice to all parties.
Featured image via Lonpicman-Wikimedia Commons
Since you're here ...
We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.