Extradition attempts against Assange turn to farce as US prosecution seeks help of convicted paedophile

Julian Assange
Tom Coburg

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 3.25pm on 10 June 2019 to change a description of Jacob Appelbaum as a “Wikileaks staffer” to “Former Wikileaks spokesperson”.

US authorities are reportedly preparing to use a convicted paedophile as a prosecution witness against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Discredited witness?

A WikiLeaks press release claims the US is now hoping to use Sigurdur Thordarson as a witness in its prosecution against Assange. It also states that, as part of the US extradition request, further charges are likely to be added to those already listed:

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The press release further suggests that the US authorities may try to conceal their true intentions:

While the case would collapse in the U.S. due to the prosecution’s reliance on testimony by Thordarson and [Hector] Monsegur, who are not credible witnesses, the United States can conceal their witnesses’ identities during UK extradition proceedings in order to boost their chances of winning.

Thordarson is a convicted felon in relation to several offences, including paedophilia (involving nine boys). He had pleaded guilty to these offences. Also, in December 2014, Thordarson was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison on 18 charges of embezzlement, theft, and fraud.

Whether a US or UK court could regard Thordarson as a credible witness may be a matter of legal challenge.

FBI informant

From 2011 to 2012, Thordarson was an informant for the FBI. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, investigative reporter Ryan Gallagher claimed that:

Thordarson gave the FBI a large amount of data on WikiLeaks, including private chat message logs, photographs, and contact details of volunteers, activists, and journalists affiliated with the organisation.

According to Gallagher, the FBI asked Thordarson to report back on:

Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir; eminent computer security expert Jacob Appelbaum; and Guardian reporter James Ball, a former WikiLeaks staffer.

Here, according to Ars Technica, is a receipt from the FBI to Thordarson for “1TB of data across eight hard drives that included chat logs, videos, documents, pictures, and other related data to WikiLeaks“:

And there are also these email exchanges between Thordarson and FBI agents.

Further approaches

A copy of a letter was released earlier this year, indicating that charges relating to the US Espionage Act may be under consideration against one former WikiLeaks staffer, if not more. The letter is from the US Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice (DoJ), to former WikiLeaks employee and spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Here is a translation by Netzpolitik. The letter offers Domscheit-Berg immunity from prosecution, providing he fully co-operates. However, when Domscheit-Berg’s lawyers requested access to the proceedings, the DoJ prosecutors reportedly responded by withdrawing their offer.

Former WikiLeaks spokesperson Jacob Appelbaum was also asked to testify but reportedly refused.

David House, a computer programmer and campaigner for Chelsea Manning, was subpoenaed by the Grand Jury in May 2018. According to one media outlet, he’s reportedly co-operating with the DoJ in exchange for immunity.

Legal challenges

US legal expert Jack Goldsmith provides a forensic analysis of all 18 charges raised against Assange and argues there is little difference between what WikiLeaks does and the work of mainstream media.

It should also be noted that none of the other media outlets that partnered with WikiLeaks has been charged. And so it could be argued that the charges raised against Assange amount to selective prosecution. That could equate to political prosecution, which is grounds under UK extradition arrangements for US requests to be denied. US lawyer Jacques Semmelman, who specialises in extradition cases, agrees. He argues that the charges raised against Assange are political, saying:

It is a classic political offense. I have a difficult time seeing a British court departing so significantly from legal tradition and saying in this case they will make an exception. The political offense exception as it has existed for probably 150 years has consistently maintained that for espionage charges, they are not extraditable. That’s just a classic principle of international extradition law.

Assange’s health, meanwhile, remains a concern.

The extradition request could also be challenged in the UK courts, given the threats against Assange by US politicians and political commentators, and because of the seizure by Ecuador of confidential correspondence between Assange and his legal team.

The credibility of prosecution witnesses may also be grounds for challenge.

The next extradition hearing is June 14.

Featured image via Channel 4 News/YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. now that the Swedes have finally dropped all pretence of any charges against Assange and have never ever charged him with rape will the false left wing Labour MP’s that sent letters to the Home Secretary demanding that Julian be extradited to Sweden forthwith, be sending new letters saying they were wrong and demanding that British Justice be served? and that Mr Assange be released from prison. Or more likely be holding their heads in shame and denying the truth.

      I worry that the establishment/elite and the crappy rags that serve them like the Guardian and Mail will now change tack and begin to go full throttle for demanding his extradition to the US. Assange is a Journalist/publisher who has only ever published truths that are in the public interest and he should be free now.

      1. Mr Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy because he feared that extradition proceedings to Sweden were a thin veil for extradition to the US. At the time he was pilloried for the claim. Subsequent events have proved that he was correct in his assessment.

        As for serving his time for skipping bail, Jack Shepherd received six months for the same offence in a case which resulted in his conviction for manslaughter (wrongly, in my view). Assange received two weeks short of the maximum sentence. You must be having a laugh if you don’t think this was political.

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