Assange case proves 'UK an American vassal state' that can't stop extraditions
Swedish prosecutors dropped the rape investigation against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange ending a seven-year standoff and will revoke its arrest warrant, according to the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, and with the threat of extradition to the US for leaking classified national security documents hanging over him.
RT: Good news for Julian Assange today. But still a lot of concern over whether he will be a free man anyway.
Clark Stoeckley, WikiLeaks activist: Certainly, there are few more legal hurdles that we will have to go through to make sure that everything is good with the UK. But the real concern, and it has been a concern the entire time, is that he would be extradited to the US where he has been facing a grand jury for nearly seven years. That grand jury has been held in secret, and it has been very apparent that the US government was working with Sweden to try and to get him to Sweden so they then could bring him to the US. We have seen kind of a rise of a threat, especially under the Trump administration, from Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo, the new CIA director, they have made statements that Assange is a priority to them. That is scary for journalists all over the world that they really cannot do the reporting that they need to do. If exposing the truth to the public is an espionage then it is a great concern and should be taken very seriously by everyone from journalists, activists, to lawmakers as well.
RT: UK police have said they will detain Assange if he leaves the embassy. Could that then lead to his extradition to the US?
Craig Murray, former UK diplomat and whistleblower: The suspicion must be that those papers already exist in the crime prosecution service in the UK and that the US and the UK are sitting on them. There are tens of thousands of people wanted for jumping bail in the UK. And they don’t have police officers sitting around waiting to catch and arrest him. So, there is another agenda behind their wanting to do this. And it would make me suspect that there have already been at the very least conversations between the Americans and the UK over extraditing him to the US. It should also be said that the principle of arresting somebody for jumping bail when they went to claim political asylum is an interesting one. Because by definition people who claim political asylum are being persecuted in the country they are fleeing from. You are abnegating the whole idea of asylum if you are saying that the domestic charge they face takes precedence over the award of asylum. This is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the finding of the UN working group on that grounds, for example … It shows that the UK is effectively a vassal state. We’ve abnegated our ability to defend people in our own jurisdiction against American claims of jurisdiction, and the right of UK courts to access the sense of any claims of extradition. It’s an appalling and shameful arrangement.
RT: Whistleblower and WikiLeaks supporter Chelsea Manning was released from a US prison this week. Could there be any connection here?
Ben Griffin, coordinator for the UK branch of Veterans for Peace: I am not sure if it is a surprise. Two days after Chelsea Manning was finally released after seven years in detention the Swedes have now decided to drop this case. The Swedes interviewed Julian some months ago. There is clearly no case to answer. There have never been any charges. And now the Swedes are out of the picture. But let’s have a look at who is in the picture. The US of America still threatening Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks. And, perhaps more despicably, the British government through the Metropolitan Police stating that they will arrest a man for breaching bail for a crime that no longer exists. It is ridiculous…
RT: What does this Swedish decision mean now for Assange?
Christophe Marchand, a member of Assange’s Brussels-based legal team: It means that now he is being considered as innocent. He has been always saying that he has nothing to do with those accusations and now in the end - after seven years after a miscarriage of justice - the prosecutors consider they have to close the case. So, it is very important. Because after seven years of accusations, now he has been detained for five years in inhumane conditions, it is time for Julian Assange to be free.
RT: Is it possible the UK government's already discussed extradition with US authorities?
Annie Machon, former MI5 officer: I am sure that there has been some back room deal. Sweden has been put under pressure by the US, I think, over the last few years to try to hem in Julian Assange. The fact that they know have dropped this - even though they don’t need to until 2020 - is an interesting point. I think that there is a bilateral agreement between the UK and the US for extradition. I am sure there have been discussions. The new Attorney General of the US has been talking about “we have to go after WikiLeaks, Assange and the rest of the team.” I am sure something is going on in the background. Otherwise, Sweden would not have been encouraged to drop the case.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.