In the political landscape, Julian Assange is one of the current hot-button topics. His actions in the last 6 months have placed him front-and-center in the current furore over the election of Donald Trump, centering on his release of the Podesta emails.
Now, I won’t say the Podesta emails were a storm in a teacup () because that’s beside the point, which is that Assange has deliberately invoked a controversy to personally profit by it, as part of a larger campaign by Assange to avoid dealing with his Swedish sexual assault allegations. To fan the flames of that some more, WikiLeaks released this tweet.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
There are two issues here that are conflated and done so in a despite to perhaps mislead people. Yes, there indeed
is WAS a movement to get Chelsea [formerly Bradley] Manning clemency and Manning is reportedly on Obama’s shortlist for clemency/pardons prior to leaving office. (note, as I was finishing this, Manning’s sentence was commuted, and Manning will be released on May 17th)
Yet it’s the second part, about Assange accepting extradition to the US, and the ‘unconstitutional case’ that’s of greater interest.
First and foremost, there has been little in the way of activities regarding WikiLeaks. what few there have been, have almost all occurred in the Grand Jury proceedings, an investigative proceeding. There has been no formal indictment filed against Assange to date that anyone is aware of (sealed indictments are another matter, not that one is likely, as it’s not like he’s going to run anywhere) and any indictment filed has to have been presented within a 70-day period. So we are pretty certain there’s no indictment against Assange. Sure there was a Stratfor email claiming there was one but no-one has substantiated it, and it was never mentioned again… which is odd if it were true. nott o mention it would actually be criminal for him to have been made aware of it, and can be punished by jail time. That there wasn’t indicates this was not true.
So no indictment means no extradition, but let’s assume there is.
The US desires to extradite Assange to the US for various Wikileaks related things; how would that work?
In a nutshell, not well.
Sweden as a country does not allow extradition for ‘political crimes’, the prosecution for the actions of Wikileaks would fall into that category (In 1992 Sweden refused to extradite Edward Howard back to the US on a charge of Espionage). That’s well known by a lot of people, especially the older generation since it was the second most popular country for those avoiding the Vietnam Draft (after the obvious country of Canada). This is why on August 18th, 2010, Julian Assange applied for Swedish residency, precisely to protect against a US extradition. Now his residency request was rejected (he didn’t discontinue it, it was denied him) but that doesn’t matter. As Sweden placed their extradition request first, and it has already been processed through the UK courts, they have priority.
So when/if a US Extradition request comes in, Sweden is bound by law to inspect it for legitimacy through the court system. This is also why his constant claims for ‘assurances from the Swedish Government not to be sent to the US‘ could not be granted, not only would it be against the law, but its dealing with the wrong entity. Judicial independence (the cornerstone of any free state) would make that impossible. So either he knows that and is trying to see how many people he can mislead with his seemingly reasonable request (which is anything but), or he is the world’s most ignorant transparency and accountability advocate.
The request would then need to be processed through the Swedish courts, where the US would have to provide evidence of the crimes alleged. That’s going to be ‘fun’ to do and not break the ‘political’ barrier.
So let’s assume they DO manage that then (which makes the second big assumption, following the assumption of the request in the first place), the next step would be to get the agreement of… the UK Government.
That’s right, there’s a thing called the Doctrine of Specialty, which is pretty much standard in extradition cases, and states that extradited persons can only be on trial for the charges they’ve been extradited on. So, since the extradition to Sweden specifically states only the alleged rape and sexual assaults, there’s no way to have Sweden try him for anything else until after the case is completed (either dismissed or sentenced and served). So a request would then have to ALSO request extradition from the UK to Sweden again (under conditions of that treaty) and then request extradition from Sweden to the US.
This is where it gets interesting. Before the final verdict by the UK Supreme court (30 May 2012) The US could have requested extradition from the UK, and then it would have been a matter for the UK Home Secretary to determine (by signing off) which case would proceed. This is a huge issue, as Assange had left Sweden for the UK on 27th September 2010, and so had been in the UK for 611 days.
This is critically important to highlight, because both the US-Sweden, and Sweden-UK extradition treaties are very different from the US-UK extradition treaty. In the former, the crime accused must be a criminal act in both countries, and then evidence must be presented to substantiate the allegation. In the US-UK extradition treaty, there is no requirement to produce the evidence when the US requests extradition from the UK, instead, the court has to be informed that evidence exists – essentially ‘reasonable suspicion’. it’s a much lower barrier to overcome.
This is why it is so puzzling why Assange waited until 19 June 2012 (four days after his final UK Supreme Court appeal was rejected, with extradition set for some time in the period June 28 to July 8, 2012) to suddenly voice his worry about US extradition and violate his bail conditions in fleeing to the Ecuadorian embassy.
So, to recap, the extradition Assange is worried about doesn’t exist, but if it did it would have to be concerning a non-political topic because Sweden doesn’t allow political extraditions. If it was, both Sweden and the UK would then have to go through a court process where evidence would have to be produced to the court, and so he would have two separate attempts to fight it. However, the one time he decides to voice his concern and act on it is when this complex and convoluted set of requirements is locked in place and not in the 87 weeks prior to that where they could have requested extradition from the UK, without restriction on crime and without having to even provide evidence to back up the allegations.
So the whole claim of ‘fearing US extradition’ fails on pretty much every single factual point, even assuming there was an indictment (there isn’t as we’ve established, but the DOJ have also publiclly stated they’ve never sought one) to base an extradition request on.
In fact, when it comes to Assange’s claims of US extradition, what is the most puzzling is why he traveled to the UK back in September 2010. After all, it’s well known how easy US extraditions from the UK are (Gary McKinnon etc.). Someone so worried about US extradition would not go to the one country with the easiest treaty there and stay there for 20 months. Not when most of that is spent fighting a return to the country he was so certain would protect him from US extradition, that he applied for residency.
There is only one explanation that fits all these facts. There is no US extradition, and Assange never felt there was. The claim of it was a last-minute desperation move by a man desperate to avoid his own accountability.
He left Sweden 27th September 2010, while an interview with the prosecutors was scheduled for the 28th at 5 pm with his lawyer one week earlier (22nd). There is strong evidence that his lawyer was informed on the 27th that he would be arrested at the interview on the 28th, which is what prompted the flight.
As for why the UK was his destination? As an Australian, he’s a commonwealth citizen, and so does not require a visa. While this may be true throughout the Schengen area that includes Sweden, the Schengen limit is for 90 days in a 6-month period across the entire zone, giving him only a month or two. Meanwhile, in the UK, he can stay for up to 6 months starting on his arrival – more than enough time to try and sort it out and move on or get it dismissed, meanwhile he’s still in the Schengen area if he can get it dismissed and return to Sweden.
There’s also the gamble of the laws themselves. The UK uses civil law, while much of Europe uses the Napoleonic code. When it comes to laws regarding sex, the UK (and other such countries, like the US) is often woefully lacking. Since a key aspect of extradition is that the offence(s) must be a crime in both countries, he may have been banking on the UK not considering the accusations from Sweden to be crimes, thus negating the extradition request. That backfired.
So now we’re back to the original tweet and claim. that Assange would allow himself to be extradited to the US if Manning was commuted.
However, he said nothing about Sweden, which is more pressing because there IS an extradition order from Sweden, and not even a request from the US (as we’ve now established).
However, the reason stated by Assange for fleeing to the embassy was because of fear of US extradition, which he seems to no longer have an issue with. So absent his (flimsy and imaginary) pretext for avoiding extradition to Sweden, it has to be asked:
What justification will he now claim for staying there?
And it’s pretty much a given that he won’t now leave the embassy to hold himself to the same kind of accountability he claims to be providing to others, by standing up to the charges that have been substantiated against him in at least EIGHT court hearings.
No, because courts and punishment are for the likes of Manning. Manning will have spent 7 years in prison for actions of whistleblowing. Assange refuses to show the same respect for law and justice and accountability as he claims others should when it comes to matters of his own personal choice. Or is Assange trying to say that his role as a middleman and publicist is so much more important than whistleblowers, that he should be held above the law in any action he deems because that’s certainly what it sounds like.
Wth his boast last week, he painted himself into a corner over his own issues. He gambled that Obama’s history of punishing whistleblowers (more than every other president combined… or should that be ‘before him’) would preclude him from commuting Manning’s sentence. That bluff is now called, so now we will see if Assange is even capable of practicing what he preaches.