Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor in chief of Wikileaks, and barrister Jennifer Robinson talk to the media outside the Westminster Magistrates Court after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London, Britain, April 11, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 April 2019

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

  • The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of press freedom

LONDON: Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.
“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.
“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.
The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.
He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.
The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.
If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.
Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He’s not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”
The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers in March 2010.
He faces up to five years in jail.
Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.
The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.
But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”
The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange’s behavior in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That’s not true.”
Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”
Assange’s father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.


Philippines begins termination of US deal

Earlier, Duterte said he would give the US a month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2020

Philippines begins termination of US deal

  • The move comes after Washington’s refusal to issue a visa to ally of President Duterte

MANILA: The Philippines has started the process of terminating the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows the deployment of US forces to the country to conduct military exercises, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced on Friday.
The move comes one day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to do away with the agreement if the US did not reinstate the visa of his political ally and former police chief, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Although in a speech on Thursday night the president said he would give the US one month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa before terminating the VFA, Panelo told reporters the process had already begun.
“The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly,” he said, adding he had relayed the matter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
Locsin, in a Twitter post on Friday, confirmed he had called Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “to start the process of terminating the VFA.”
Lorenzana, in a statement on Friday evening, said that he would discuss with the president “the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA, and what future actions may be undertaken by the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding this matter.”
The defense chief said he could understand why the president was angered by the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, over alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with the government’s anti-drug war.
“It is a direct affront to (the president) being the architect of the drug war upon his assumption of office,” the defense chief said.
He noted that Duterte ordered Dela Rosa when he was installed as police chief in 2016 to launch the drug war, and promised to back him. “He is just being true to his promise,” Lorenzana stressed.
Dela Rosa himself said details surrounding the revocation of his US visa remain unclear to him. He added that it “might be related” to the anti-drug war.
The Philippines Department of Justice said it was studying the “proper procedure to terminate the VFA.”
Responses from Philippine lawmakers have been mixed.
“In the absence of a Philippines Supreme Court ruling on the president’s power to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement like the VFA, without the consent of a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members of the senate, the president can do that without the senate’s approval or consent,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the VFA termination would work in favor of China, and so did not come as a surprise.
According to Lorenzana: “The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest.
“Such a termination does not need the approval of the Philippine Congress. All that is required is that a notice of termination be served to the US government. The termination shall take effect 180 days after the date of the notice,” the defense chief stressed.