On 14 April, UK lawyer for Julian Assange, Jennifer Robinson, collapsed the official narrative on Sky News.
“Refused to give assurances” about US extradition
Speaking to Sophy Ridge, Robinson pointed out an inconvenient fact:
All these people saying he was hiding from Swedish justice. If that were the case, why didn’t he walk out the embassy two years ago when this case was dropped?
Sweden’s prosecutors dropped their investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations against Assange in May 2017 (note: this does not affirm his guilt or innocence). Former director of public prosecution Marianne Ny said this was because it was “not possible to take any further steps that would move the investigation forward”.
The former WikiLeaks editor gave his testimony to Swedish prosecutors in the Ecuadorian embassy before they dropped the case. Assange has long denied the accusations and his detailed statement can be found here.
Despite Sweden dropping the case, Assange remained in the embassy. Robinson says that’s because he sought refuge in the embassy over fears of extradition to the US, not Sweden:
I’ve been working on his case since the initial Swedish request came through. We’ve been warning since then that he would face the risk of US extradition for… his work associated with WikiLeaks publications… We warned for years and that is precisely what has happened… He was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy because of his concern about this risk… He has always cooperated with the Swedish investigation. He remained in Sweden to answer questions, we offered his testimony before they sought his extradition and we continue to offer his testimony. He only sought asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy when Sweden refused to give assurances about onward extradition to the United States…
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Correspondingly, Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa recently repeated that it was “because his human rights [were] in danger” that he “granted asylum to Julian Assange”. And the UN special rapporteur on torture has reiterated concerns that Assange could face serious human rights violations in the US.
Amnesty joined Assange’s call
If the Swedish authorities are able to confirm publicly that Assange will not eventually find himself on a plane to the USA if he submits himself to the authority of the Swedish courts then this will hopefully achieve two things.
First, it will break the current impasse and second it will mean the women who have levelled accusations of sexual assault are not denied justice.
It is vital that states show they are serious about dealing with allegations of sexual violence and that they respect both the rights of the women who made the complaints and the person accused.
The extradition treaty between the US and Sweden suggests that Sweden could have offered Assange assurances on the basis that it believed the US case concerned “a political offense”, “an offense connected with a political offense” or that there was a lack of evidence.
“This is about human rights abuses”
On Sky News, Ridge retorted:
You say that it’s all about him worrying about being extradited to the US. But at the same time, it was the extradition to Sweden which was why he went into the embassy in the first place… the US wasn’t on the table at that point.
So Robinson reiterated her point:
There was a grand jury investigation that was opened back in 2010 and we were concerned about the risk of US extradition then. That concern has been proven correct this week.
And later she said:
This indictment that has come from the United States relates to his communications with a source about a major public interest publication. This is about… US spying on UN and European politicians. This is about human rights abuses and corruption the world over. This is about evidence of US war crimes, killing journalists. These are the publications that he is now facing extradition and prosecution over.
The US indictment does not concern any of the Swedish allegations. It specifically seeks to arrest Assange over journalistic activity relating to source protection and story hunting. So Robinson is quite right to warn about the dangerous precedent this could set. In order to maintain a free and open internet, we must resist this assault on press freedom with every fibre of our being.
Featured image via YouTube – Sky News
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?