MPs urge UK to cooperate with Sweden in Assange case

In this Dec. 1, 2011, file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks during a news conference in central London. (FILE/AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019

MPs urge UK to cooperate with Sweden in Assange case

  • Assange was arrested at Ecuador’s London embassy on allegations of skipping bail
  • He had sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 while on bail awaiting extradition to Sweden for allegations of sexual assault and rape

LONDON: More than 70 British lawmakers have urged their government to prioritize any extradition bid Sweden might make for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is also wanted in the United States.
Assange was arrested on Thursday at Ecuador’s London embassy on allegations of skipping bail, and on a US extradition warrant related to a huge leak of official documents.
He had sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 while on bail awaiting extradition to Sweden for allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he always denied.
In the letter, the MPs and peers urge British Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “give every assistance to Sweden should they want to revive and pursue the investigation.”
British law states that if Sweden does make an extradition request, it would be up to Javid to decide which should take precedence.
“We must send a strong message of the priority the UK has in tackling sexual violence and the seriousness with which such allegations are viewed,” the letter says.
The sexual assault claim expired in 2015 and Swedish prosecutors dropped a preliminary investigation into the rape allegation in 2017, arguing that since Assange could not be reached, they could not proceed.
Following his arrest, however, the alleged rape victim asked that her case now be reopened — but the limitation period on this claim expires in August 2020.
“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done,” the letter says.
The MPs and peers add that it is “of grave concern to us” that the Swedish authorities did not appear to have prior warning of Assange’s arrest, unlike the US authorities.
The letter was also copied to Diane Abbott, the home affairs spokeswoman for the main opposition Labour party.

Abbott said: “Assange skipping bail in UK, or any rape charge that may be brought by Swedish authorities shouldn’t be ignored.
“But the only extradition request is from USA, because he’s a whistle-blower on atrocities caused by US military ops. This extradition would be wrong so we oppose it.”
Assange is currently being held at the high-security Belmarsh jail in southeast London.
The 47-year-old Australian claims the Swedish cases against him were politically motivated, linked to the leak in 2010 of a huge number of US military and diplomatic documents.
He sought refuge with Ecuador, claiming that his extradition to Sweden was a pretext for his transfer to the United States.
But Ecuador withdrew his asylum status and allowed British police into the embassy on Thursday to arrest the white-bearded Assange.
He appeared in court a few hours later and was found guilty of breaching his bail terms back in 2012. He could be jailed for up to a year when he is sentenced at a later date.
The separate extradition case on US charges of computer hacking is set for May 2, although the United States has until June 12 to submit full extradition papers.
Assange’s London lawyer Jennifer Robinson said: “He’s obviously going to fight extradition and fight it hard.”


Ex-PM May attacks ‘reckless’ UK Brexit plan

Updated 16 min 45 sec ago

Ex-PM May attacks ‘reckless’ UK Brexit plan

  • May, whose 2016-2019 premiership was derailed by the tortuous Brexit process, said the draft law would “lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation”
  • Johnson has argued it will provide a “safety net” against what he has claimed are EU threats to impose tariffs on UK internal trade

LONDON: Britain’s former prime minister Theresa May said Monday she would not support the government’s new Brexit legislation, which will break international law, accusing the government of acting “recklessly and irresponsibly.”
May, whose 2016-2019 premiership was derailed by the tortuous Brexit process, said the draft law would “lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation.”
“As a result, with regret, I have to tell the minister I cannot support this bill,” she told fellow MPs as the proposed legislation underwent scrutiny in parliament.
The UK Internal Market Bill unveiled earlier this month would override parts of the Brexit treaty struck by May’s successor Boris Johnson with the European Union last year.
Ministers have admitted it would breach international law.
British lawmakers voted last week to allow the draft law to proceed for further scrutiny despite EU calls for it to be withdrawn.
Numerous MPs from the ruling Conservatives cautioned against adopting the most contentious measures in the legislation, but only two ended up voting against it while 29 abstained — including May.
Lawmakers will vote again on the bill on Tuesday next week before it goes to the House of Lords for weeks of further scrutiny.
Johnson has argued it will provide a “safety net” against what he has claimed are EU threats to impose tariffs on UK internal trade and even stop food going from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland.
But EU leaders have dismissed this as spin and warned Johnson to uphold commitments he made in the Brexit treaty last year and withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of the month.
The row threatens to disrupt already tough post-Brexit trade negotiations, fueling growing fears of failure that would see more than four decades of EU-UK integration come to a crashing halt at the end of this year.
Britain left the EU in January but remains bound by the rules of the 27-member bloc until December 31.