Friday, January 21, 2011

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt insists his government will play no role in Assange extradition to U.S.

By Jerry Smith Jan 21 2011

The Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, insisted Thursday that his government will play no role in deciding whether WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, should be extradited to the U.S.

Mr. Reinfeldt told reporters in London, where he was attending a summit of Nordic and Baltic nations, "We should remember when we ask questions about this that these are legal systems talking to each other, not politicians. We should stay away from this."

Mr. Reinfeldt said that Sweden's policy is not to extradite people to nations with the death penalty and that Sweden's courts, not its government, would decide that.

Assanges lawyers and supporters have argued that if he's sent to Sweden, he could face extradition to the U.S., where he could be prosecuted and ultimately face the death penalty. It's unclear what charges U.S. authorities could bring against Assange.

American officials are trying to build a criminal case against his organization WikiLeaks, which has published a treasure trove of leaked diplomatic cables and secret U.S. military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Robert Stary, Assange's lawyer based in Melbourne, believes his client's defense should be pretty straightforward, because he considers Assange to be a journalist, protected by U.S. First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

Stary is worried about some possibilities: "Our main concern is really the possible extradition to the U.S. We've been troubled by the sort of rhetoric that has come out of various commentators and principally Republican politicians — Sarah Palin and the like — saying Mr. Assange should be executed, assassinated."

On her Facebook page, Palin suggests that Assange should be "pursued with the same urgency as al-Qaida and Taliban leaders."

Stary said, "Certainly if Sarah Palin or any of those other politicians come to Australia, for whatever purpose, then we can initiate a private prosecution and that's what we intend to do". He also said anyone who incites others to commit violence against his client, even outside Australia, is violating Australian law, and can be held accountable for it.

"Julian Assange has been a member of our union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, for the past three or four years," said Louise Connor, secretary of the Victoria Branch of the union, the main body representing Australian journalists.

She also said that Assange is certainly no more at fault than other traditional media who have also published the classified documents, and that her union believes WikiLeaks has acted in line with the union's code of journalistic ethics.

"The material is clearly in the public interest," Connor said. "Other media organizations have also judged it to be in the public interest when they have published. He's not the only person that's publishing the information, but it seems to us that the rhetoric around him isn't being extended to other journalists."

U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that Australian officials, including Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, are far more demoralized by the state of affairs in Afghanistan than they let on in public.

Australia's 1,500 troops form the largest non-NATO foreign contingent in Afghanistan.

Robert Stary said most Australians actually support the alliance with the U.S., "We see ourselves albeit a junior partner, but an equal partner to the U.S.". He added, "We don't like the fact that we've been misled or that our politicians have a sycophantic or subservient attitude".

Stary also said the alliance has become a something of a sacred cow in Australia, and Julian Assange is paying the price for shedding an unflattering light on it.

Julian Assange, 39, is wanted in Sweden to answer rape and assault accusations stemming from encounters with two women during a trip to Sweden last summer.

Assange is currently in London living in the home of Vaughan Smith, the owner of the Frontline Club, where he is battling extradition to Sweden over the sex-crime allegations.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 17, 2011

    Assange should be worried, the Americans want his head on a platter.