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.”


Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

Updated 19 February 2020

Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

  • Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry
  • The MFS partnership with Malaysia is expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Olympics host Japan is going for gold in a race against time to train 1,000 chefs in halal food preparation for the summer 2020 Games.
With 5 million Muslim visitors from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia expected to descend on Tokyo for the sporting spectacular, which takes place between July and September, Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry.
“Most Muslim tourists would want to try Japanese food,” said Keith Wong, CEO of Acrosx Malaysia, which has been appointed to the halal expert training committee of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to help develop halal versions of Japanese dishes.
Demand for halal Japanese food was booming and Wong told Arab News: “Tempura is popular among Middle Easterners and in South Asia, while ramen and unagi (eels) are popular among Muslims from Southeast Asia. Sashimi and sushi are very popular among all Muslims.”
He pointed out that MFS were needed because the number of halal restaurants in Japan was currently insufficient to cater for all visitor preferences during the Olympics.
The Japanese government has partnered with Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation to have more than 1,000 chefs trained in preparing halal food and become MFS-certified.
“We are aiming to train 500 restaurants for ‘Muslim-friendly’ certification for the Olympics,” Wong said, adding that MFS were even stricter than general halal standards.
Restaurants adopting MFS would be required to have a separate halal kitchen and provide different utensils for Muslim customers.
The Japanese chefs and restaurant operators taking part in the training will learn about the history of Islam, halal food storage and cooking methods.
The global halal industry is estimated to be worth around $2 trillion, and the Japanese see Muslim travelers as being more valuable than Chinese tourists, Wong said. “Chinese travelers to Japan would usually spend money on high-end, luxury goods. While Muslim travelers, with their friends and family, would spend money on food, lodgings and tourism.”
He noted that the MFS partnership with Malaysia was expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games.
“We will be aiming for the World Expo 2025 in Osaka,” he said, adding that Japan may become a global and high-quality player in the halal industry.