19 November 2019
Sweden Drops Investigation of Julian Assange
From the outset of this preliminary investigation, Julian Assange’s expressed concern has been that waiting in the wings was a United States request that would be unstoppable from Sweden and result in his spending the rest of his life in a US prison.
Now that the US does seek Mr Assange’s extradition to stand trial on unprecedented charges for journalistic work, it continues to be a matter of extreme regret that this reality was never acknowledged and that in turn a process in Sweden, with which Mr Assange has always expressed his willingness to engage and indeed did so, became so exceptionally politicised itself.
The US is seeking a 175-year prison sentence. Sweden has to date failed to give assurances it will block Mr Assange’s US extradition.
The UN has investigated the procedural history of the Swedish “preliminary investigation” against Assange. The conclusions are clear. The matter became rapidly politicised and there has been no prospect for a fair hearing for many years. An investigation into how the justice system failed to withstand the political and media pressure and lessons learned should be pursued.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said,
“Sweden has dropped its preliminary investigation into Mr Assange for the third time, after reopening it without any new evidence or information. Let us now focus on the threat Mr Assange has been warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Mr. Assange arrived in Sweden two weeks after WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Diaries, the first of a series of four groundbreaking WikiLeaks publications attributed to whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Mr. Assange was preparing to publish the Iraq War Logs, Cablegate, and the Guantanamo Bay Files when Sweden opened a “preliminary investigation” against him. By then, high-ranking US officials had announced that the US intended to prosecute Mr. Assange. Reports show that the US was also encouraging its allies to find ways to prosecute him.
The Trump administration has initiated a highly politicised prosecution. Under the Trump Administration the US is taking the intention to prosecute under Obama to its extreme by seeking an effective death penalty for Assange under the outdated 1917 Espionage Act. It is the first time the US has applied the Espionage Act to a publisher.
The Trump administration is seeking a 175-year prison sentence for the same journalistic work that has won Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks dozens of journalism prizes. The potential sentence against the publisher under President Trump is forty years longer than the potential sentence against the leaker Chelsea Manning under President Obama.
The Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange will deal a fatal blow to the First Amendment in the United States and set back press freedoms globally.
The UK Crown Prosecution Service, now acting for the United States in the extradition proceedings against Mr Assange, artificially prolonged the Swedish “preliminary investigation” by advising Sweden against questioning Mr Assange in the UK. When the SPA informed the UK of its intentions to drop the investigation against Assange in 2013, the UK CPS pressured Sweden into keeping the investigation alive.
The United Nations has conducted independent investigations into the manner in which the Swedish “preliminary investigation” has been conducted over its nine-year history. The conclusions are available on the United Nations website.
Upcoming court dates
13 December, 10:00 Case mention (a procedural brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, a mandatory requirement for persons on remand awaiting an extradition)
19 December, 10:00 Case management hearing (a longer hearing in which the court may consider whether to move the February extradition hearing dates)
24-28 February 2020, 10:00: United States Extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates Court
Letter by UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to the Government of Sweden (Ref: AL SWE 4/2019)
12 September 2019
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Opinion No.54/2015 concerning Julian Assange (Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Official Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign: https://dontextraditeassange.com/
Contact: Amna Shaddad +44 7852230063, email@example.com
Courage Foundation: https://defendwl.couragefound.org/, @couragefound
Contact: Nathan Fuller firstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts for comment:
Per Samuelson, defence attorney for Mr. Assange +46 708473341
Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Nils.Melzer@glasgow.ac.uk
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor +3548217121