WHY NOT QUESTION ASSANGE? August 19, 2012Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, European Politics, LATIN AMERICA, US Politics.
Julian Assange is the subject of an inquiry in Sweden concerning allegations made against him requiring him to answer questions put by the Prosecutor who adopted his case. She will not travel to London to question Assange or use a video hook-up.
Nor will the Swedish Authorities give a guarantee to him they will not extradite him to be severely mistreated, including torture, and may possibly face death.
The Bradley Manning pre-trial procedure under military jurisdiction, involving so far more than 800 days of detention and including torture, is an example to the world as to how the US trial process works in relation to disclosure of secret information. This is what Assange can look forward to, while the Australian Government looks away.
It seems that the Star Chamber runs its course as well in Sweden, according to Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelson. He notes:
Pre-trial, suspects are often held in detention, or even in isolation. This treatment is unnecessary and humiliating and thwarts the defendant’s ability to prepare their case.
Detaining and isolating a suspect is appropriate where the crime is sufficiently grave and the indication of guilt clear. Treating Anders Breivik in this way is the right thing to do, for instance.
Assange has by now presumably had time with his legal advisers had time to prepare his defence, but the question arises as to whether this treatment would be appropriate given that he will be subject to questioning. His lawyer continues:
The allegations against Assange, in contrast, are not nearly so serious, but a case of “he said, she said”. Let us also not forget that Assange has not been charged with any crime, and that the allegations against him were at first dismissed by a Swedish prosecutor.
In August 2010, Assange was interviewed by the police for the first time, then released. A month later, the prosecutor requested an additional police interrogation be held, insisting this time that it be done with Assange behind bars. She called for Assange’s arrest, issued a European arrest warrant and ordered that he be deported from the UK. Stockholm district court and the Svea court of appeal upheld her request and arrested Assange in absentia.
Neither Assange nor I can understand the motivation. Why couldn’t the second police interview be conducted with Assange at liberty? Assange is not a Swedish citizen. He does not reside in Sweden. His work has worldwide impact and he must be able to travel freely to accomplish this. He would happily have presented himself for interrogation and, had the case gone to trial, willingly returned to Sweden to face charges. All this could have been done while he remained at liberty. Had Sweden handled the case in this way, the issue would have been resolved a long time ago.
Instead, Sweden insists on Assange’s forcible removal to Sweden. Once there, he will immediately be seized by police and put in jail. He will be taken to the detention hearing in handcuffs, and will almost certainly be detained. He will remain in custody for the duration of the proceedings. This is unnecessary. The prosecutor is at liberty to withdraw the arrest warrant and lift the detention order, and a hearing in Sweden could be arranged very quickly. The prosecutor could also arrange a hearing in the UK or at the Swedish embassy in London.
This treatment is degrading. No one should be treated as guilty until proven innocent. There has been no trial, let alone conviction. Assange has not even been charged with any crime …
The Australian Government offer of consular assistance does not go to asking the Swedes as to what is going on? Nor, do they question the police presence around the Ecuadorean Embassy in London now that that government has granted Assange political asylum after investigating his circumstance. It must be costing a pretty penny for an austerity government.
As Chris Floyd notes when governments refuse to the do the obvious, they have questions to answer.
Given the fact that Swedish prosecutors have repeatedly turned down opportunities to question Assange about the case — even though they say this is their sole aim — it is not entirely unreasonable to assume, as Assange has done, that there is some other intention behind the process that has led to the standoff we see today. If the primary concern was justice for the two women involved in the allegations, who have had the case hanging over their heads for almost two years, Assange could have been questioned by Swedish authorities at any time during that period, and the process of resolving the case, one way or another, could have moved forward. But this has not been done.
The Raw Story reported on The Sydney Morning Herald revelations:
The cables show that diplomats in Assange’s home country anticipate receipt of an extradition request for Assange once a secret U.S. grand jury wraps up its investigation. They expect it so fully that embassy staff even reached out to U.S. officials for “early advice” on the potential indictment and extradition request.
The American response was redacted, the paper noted, “on the grounds that disclosure could ’cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth.’” Other material blacked out of the cables pertains to the prosecution of Pvt. Bradley Manning, who U.S. military prosecutors say participated in a conspiracy with WikiLeaks to steal and publish classified information.
The Herald also added that diplomatic briefings given to Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and Prime Minister Julia Gillard showed they have “no in-principle objection to extradition.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Thursday that there is “no information to indicate” that the U.S. is behind Assange’s most pressing and current legal woes. “It is an issue among the countries involved and we are not planning to inject ourselves,” spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. “With regard to the charge that the U.S. was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely,” she added.
Nobody will be surprised if at some point in the future, this statement proves not authoritative in respect to the true development. Julian’s mum supports her son:
Marina Portnaya then wraps the case for Assange’s fears for life and freedom:
For those interested, The New York Times and other publications provide commentary on Assange’s personal habits.
For the record, the Australian Government makes it clear in this correspondence with an Assange lawyer that they cannot inquire as to why in the re-opening of the case against Assange as why it is vital that he is to be placed into detention and why the appropriate questioning cannot take place in London. Furthermore, they could not inquire into the likelihood of his extradition to a third country, even though they are very much aware of this eventuality.
(I have to note the following with respect to “Duckpond“.)
Kelly B Vlahos, Assange and Correa: Marriage of Convenience reviews the situation of press freedom in Ecuador, but not the appropriateness of the behavior of the Swedish Prosecutor. How does the United States pressure other governments, allowing the Australian Government does not require much pressure? So I should look for case studies that reveal these unseen manipulations at work. The international system is based on transparent, overt violence. In that context, threat power is a reality.
So what is going on in Sweden? There are facts to note: Assange stayed in Sweden for five weeks and he received permission to leave the country.
Four Corners reviewed the case.
How then to identify the core issues by stepping back and looking at the big picture without being confused by distractions? For example, one notices that the respective trials of both Assange and Manning have been delayed. Not only the fundamental tenet (I take it to be one) that “justice delayed is justice denied”, but there is in both cases questions about proper process. The fundamental questions of independence of the courts, habeas corpus and presumption of innocence seem to be negotiable.
Make of this article what you will, but it is claimed there is no legal impediment to not interview Assange in London.Of course, I am assuming he has been previously interviewed, and the prosecutor then decided there was no case to answer, or at least the prosecutors office approved his departure from Sweden, or there has never been a suggestion that when he left Sweden he was a fugitive. It seems absurd to me to argue that it is necessary to arrest Assange, and then place him in remand detention, before interviewing him. It may be so, but it seems like a strange arrangement. I suppose it could be contended that there was substantive evidence, in which case I would imagine specific charges would be necessary and made. So what is the point of the interview? Could it provide relevant evidence? It may be necessary to meet the requirement of due process or natural justice, in which case why not interview Assange in the Swedish Embassy or that matter the Ecuadorian Embassy? Would it not be appropriate to start the trial on the basis of the claimed substantive evidence? Do these procedures address the rights and needs of the other people? To ignore the well being of both Anna and Sofia, and for that matter Julian, is grievous.
A Swedish Jurist has provided the following explanation as to why it is not appropriate to interview Assange overseas:
The first solution is easy to dismiss: such an interrogation, taking place in a foreign embassy in a third country, would not be done under normal interrogation conditions. The Ecuadorian embassy, acting on instructions of a president who’s taken sides with Assange, would in effect be dictating the terms of that police interrogation. Furthermore, Julian Assange, who is a fugitive and has jumped bail on the UK court orders upholding the European Arrest Warrant, would be treated in a very favourable and discriminatory way as compared to other suspects. Finally, and more importantly, there would be no real possibility to confront him with the two victims under normal circumstances. The Swedish prosecuting service has said as much in a press communiqué:
On the other hand, the notion that a guarantee that Assange will not be extradited to a third country is decision for the Swedish Government. As the writer says there may be another opinion on this matter – surprise!
Here is a completely different story with respect to interviewing Assange in London:
Martha Kearney interviews Karin Rosander, Director of Communications for the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
Karin Rosander: The prosecutor has stated that, according to circumstances in the investigation, her opinion is that it is necessary he is present in Sweden. And she hasn’t stated exactly what circumstances, but that’s her statements.
Martha Kearney: But isn’t it the case that Swedish prosecutors have gone abroad to question defendants in serious cases at other times?
Karin Rosander: Yes, that’s true, it has happened. And it’s for the individual- it’s for the prosecutor to decide which measures to take. So it’s all about what the prosecutor decides to do.
Martha Kearney: But, what you’re saying is there are circumstances in this case that makes it very different. It’s hard to understand what they might be.
Karin Rosander: Yeah, and the prosecutor hasn’t stated exactly what kind of circumstance- what circumstances, but that’s her decision.
Martha Kearney: Would it be possible to reach some kind of agreement with Julian Assange that he wouldn’t be extradited to United States, because that’s what he says he’s frightened of if he were to agree to travel to Sweden.
Karin Rosander: Well, that’s not exactly for the prosecutor to decide because that’s a decision that has to be made by the Swedish Government.
Martha Kearney: Wouldn’t it be possible to interview him by video link, by some kind of video phone?
Karin Rosander: The prosecutor has stated that it’s necessary for him being present in Sweden. And that’s all she can say at the moment.
Martha Kearney: One other form of compromise that has been suggested is that he would be interviewed in the Swedish Embassy, so technically on Swedish Soil.
Karin Rosander: Yeah. But that doesn’t really change it because the prosecutor’s opinion is that it’s necessary he is actually present in Sweden, according to the circumstances within this investigation.
Martha Kearney: Given what’s at stake here—it’s now become a great international question now, hasn’t it, with Ecuador, the UK, and Sweden all being involved—shouldn’t the Swedish prosecutor spell out more clearly her reasons for taking this stand?
Karin Rosander: No, her decision is that at this stage of the investigation she does not want to specify.
Martha Kearney: So how is the deadlock going to be resolved, then?
Karin Rosander: Uh… I have no idea, really.
The testimony of the retired senior prosecutor, Sven-Erik Ahem, restores faith in the procedural integrity of Swedish Justice. While there is no bail, the standard that the evidence must be beyond reasonable doubt is strong. If the Prosecutor has denied Assange natural justice, as appears to be so, and if the women the situation is very unsatisfactory in terms of justice, as it might be very convenient for disrupting the operation of Wikileaks which emerges as a strong possibility. From the point of view of the US State Department, these are “wild allegations”.