British MPs urge government to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden
British lawmakers have urged their government to hand WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over to authorities in Sweden if that country reopens its investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations and requests his extradition.
In the letter sent on Friday to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, which was tweeted by Labour politician Stella Creasy, more than 70 MPs called on him “to stand with the victims of sexual violence.”
They added that “the UK should tell Sweden that it will have our full cooperation” if they choose to reopen the rape case against Assange.
The MPs note that the investigation in Sweden was “discontinued only because of Assange’s unavailability” while he was inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange was arrested on Thursday by British police after spending seven years holed inside the embassy. However, much of the coverage focused on the US request for his extradition on a single charge of conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal military secrets.
While it is clear that there was a degree of co-ordination between UK and US authorities ahead of Assange’s arrest, as the US indictment was unsealed shortly afterward, the Swedes knew nothing of it.
Some commentators have expressed surprise that the country wasn’t given notice, especially as Assange sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy on June 19, 2012 when he had lost his UK Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Sweden.
Assange denies the Swedish allegations, which have a limitation period that expires in August 2020.
After news broke that Assange had been arrested, the lawyer for the woman who accused him of rape tweeted that she and her client were shocked, but said they’d been hoping for it since 2012.
“We are going to do everything we possibly can to get the Swedish police investigation re-opened so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape,” lawyer Elisabeth Massi Fritz tweeted. “No rape victim should have to wait 9 years to see justice be served.”
Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said Thursday they were considering reopening the investigation against Assange.
If the country does decide to go ahead and submit its own extradition request, it would be up to UK courts to decide on whether it should take precedence over the expected petition from the US. Regardless, Assange will have to serve any prison sentence for skipping bail in 2012 for the sexual assault and rape allegations, which a judge will determine at a later date.
Former Conservative Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC that the way the sexual assault allegations have been minimized is “quite disturbing.”
“You read the testimony and concerns of the women who have been involved, I have no view on the matter because it must come before a court, but it seems essential to me that he should face justice for what he has been accused of,” Burt said. “Either to acquit him, or to see him appropriately convicted.”
Former Labour Lord Falconer also told the BBC that it was up to the courts to decide, not politicians.
“I don’t think politicians should be saying he should or should not be… extradited,” he said.
Assange held at high security prison
Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in Thamesmead, southeast London, is one of only three high-security local prisons in England and Wales.
According to the British government, it is the most high profile prison in the UK and includes a high security unit (HSU), in effect a prison within a prison, where some of the highest-risk prisoners in the country are held. The Category A prison holds both men and young adults.
Man believed to be an Assange associate arrested
In the latest developments related to Assange, Ecuador’s prosecutor’s office said they seized items “such as computer equipment, cell phones, storage devices, books related to electronic hacking, money, among others” of a Swedish citizen who was arrested at Quito airport on Thursday.
The prosecutor’s office released images of the search carried out at the home of the 36-year-old Swedish citizen who has been living in Ecuador for five years. Ecuador says he is an expert in the development of technology linked to security, privacy and cryptography and was planning to travel to Japan.
While the prosecutor’s office did not name the Swedish man, he fits the profile of a Julian Assange associate arrested at Quito airport who CNN has identified as Ola Bini.
In a further statement on Saturday, it said the Swedish citizen’s bank accounts had been frozen, and he will be prosecuted for the alleged crime of attacking the integrity of computer systems.
CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Claudia Rebaza, Duarte Mendonca and Sarah Dean contributed to this story.