Double standards? Sweden interviews 44 in London, but not Assange
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Hazel Press news organization has revealed that Sweden has granted 44 requests to interview witnesses or suspects in the UK since 2010, the Press Association reports. This has led supporters of the WikiLeaks founder to claim that Assange has been “singled out,” as he has also agreed to be interviewed by Swedish prosecutors inside the embassy concerning sex allegations in the Scandinavian country.
A member of Assange’s legal team, Jen Robinson, says that a number of important questions have been raised, adding that “Julian hasn’t been charged, yet he is being punished.”
“First, they refused to take his testimony while he remained in Sweden. Then they refused to hear it in the UK, saying it was illegal to come here. Five years later, after being rebuked by their own courts, they say they’ll consider it,” she told the Press Association.
“Instead of hearing what he had to say, the prosecutor chose to cast a shadow of suspicion over Julian by seeking his extradition. We offered his testimony from London before the arrest warrant was issued, and have continued to offer it since.”
In March, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, agreed to question Assange on Ecuadorian embassy soil, as the sexual assault allegations reach the statute of limitations in August.
However, the meeting planned for June 17 was called off at the last minute, as Ny said Sweden had not received official permission from Ecuador to enter its London embassy. Assange scorned Ny’s decision, saying it was nothing more than “a public relations exercise.”
Meanwhile, UK human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said that by agreeing to interview 44 people in the UK, but not Assange, Sweden was “guilty of double standards and victimization,” adding they are “making an exception of him.”
“It is wrong to deny Assange the option to be interviewed in the UK, which has been extended to others and which he has been offering for five years,” the Press Association cited him as saying.
“The Swedish authorities are not applying the law about overseas interviews consistently and fairly. They are acting in an exceptional and discriminatory way towards Assange. Julian Assange has been in various forms of detention for five years, without ever having been charged with any offence. This amounts to pre-trial punishment and is a gross abuse of his human rights and the legal system.”
If Assange steps out of the Ecuador Embassy, he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden. Police officers are keeping a round the clock watch on the Australian’s refuge, which has already cost the British tax payer more than £12 million ($18.6 million).
“Will the Cameron government spend another £12 million to detain a person who hasn’t been charged, simply because Sweden refuses to make use of the mechanisms available to resolve Julian’s case?” Robinson asked.
The 43 year-old sought asylum in the embassy because he fears that his extradition to Sweden on suspicion of rape and sexual assault will lead to his transfer to the US, where he could face trial over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified US documents.
Assange denies Sweden’s accusations, calling them politically motivated. He claims that the ultimate goal of this legal process is to transfer him to the United States.