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ASSANGE FAQ: 2 YEARS IN THE EMBASSY
When did Assange enter the embassy?
He entered the embassy on June 19, 2012 and applied for political asylum, which was formally granted two months later.
Why is Mr. Assange still in the embassy?
The UK has encircled the embassy with police since he entered it and refuses to let him take up his asylum in Ecuador. The United States refuses to drop its attempts to pursue a national security case against Mr. Assange over WikiLeaks publications on Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo bay and the US State Department. Sweden refuses to either drop its "preliminary investigation" or charge Mr. Assange with a crime. The UK states that it has spent more than $10m on the encirclement so far (see http://govcost.co.uk) but refuses to disclose the breakdown of the cost.
What does the law say?
International law says that a sovereign country has decided to recognise Mr. Assange as needing protection from political persecution on humanitarian grounds. Mr. Assange has a right to meaningfully exercise that protection through passage to Ecuador. Ecuador invoked a number of applicable conventions, including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. The United Kingdom and Sweden are also parties to the 1951 Convention and are obligated to recognise the asylum decision of Ecuador. While both states have been careful to avoid saying that they do not recognise the asylum, their actions can only be interpreted as a wilful violation of Mr. Assange’s right to ’seek, receive and enjoy’ his asylum. In international law, the obligation to protect persons from persecution under the 1951 Refugee Convention prevails over extradition agreements between states.
Why do the UK and Sweden disobey international law?
The United Kingdom says it has a treaty obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden even though he has not been charged with an offense. There is a conflict between the United Kingdom’s obligations to the 1951 UN refugee convention and its obligations under the European Arrest Warrant system. It is established law that these conflicts are to be resolved in favour of the higher obligation which is to the 1951 convention.
Rather than following international law, the United Kingdom has chosen to interpret the conflict in favor of its geopolitical alliances. The United Kingdom has a history of breaking international law in this manner, for example, in its invasion of Iraq, its cooperation with US rendition operations, and its facilitation of global mass spying via its intelligence service GCHQ. Sweden is also a party to these last two violations.
Why was he given asylum?
Mr. Assange’s asylum claim was upheld on two points.
Firstly, that there was a reasonable fear of persecution by the United States as a result of his publishing work, due to the ongoing US Department of Justice probe and political calls for his assassination. (See here and here.)
Secondly, that neither the US, UK, Sweden, nor his home country, Australia, were willing or able to protect him. Diplomatic conditions are often applied to extraditions, so Ecuador asked the UK to veto an onwards US extradition; the UK refused. Ecuador asked Sweden to veto an onwards US extradition or come to the embassy to interview Mr. Assange; Sweden refused both requests. Ecuador granted Mr. Assange asylum thereafter, and now has obligations under international law to protect Mr. Assange. The asylum cannot be revoked.
What is the status of the US investigation against Mr. Assange?
The US Department of Justice confirmed in its April 2014 court filings that the national security criminal investigation and "pending prosecution" proceed. The FBI is leading the investigation. A dozen other agencies have been involved. See here.
What is the status of the Swedish investigation against Mr. Assange?
Formally, it is at the stage of "preliminary investigation." Mr. Assange has not been charged. The investigation was previously canceled with the explanation that there were no grounds to accuse Mr. Assange. The prosecutor has yet to decide whether the investigation should turn into a formal investigation or not.
Is Mr. Assange accused of ’rape’?
Over the past year, new information has emerged that both women explicitly deny having been raped by Mr. Assange. In a statement to the UK Supreme Court, the prosecutor acknowledged that the complainants wished only to ask the police for advice about HIV tests, having discovered they’d had both had sex with Mr. Assange. (There has never been an allegation Mr. Assange has HIV.) Neither of the women wished to lodge a formal complaint.
The woman of whom Mr. Assange is accused of the offence of "lesser rape" (a technical term in Swedish law) sent an SMS to a friend saying that she "did not want to accuse JA [of] anything" and "it was the police who made up the charges". The other woman tweeted in 2013 that she had never been raped. Both women’s testimonies say that they consented to the sex. A senior prosecutor already dismissed the ’rape’ accusation, saying that there were no grounds for accusing Mr. Assange on this basis. But a third prosecutor, lobbied by a politician who was running for attorney general, took over the investigation and resurrected the accusations against Mr. Assange. Due to the great number of incorrect reports of, it is best to rely on primary source documents in this matter, which are on the internet and the UK Supreme Court "Agreed Statements of Facts" agreed to by the UK, the Swedish authoritiesm and Mr. Assange’s legal team. (See here and here.)
Are the two women CIA agents? Is the Swedish case a plot?
While the Swedish government’s close relationship with the United States may have a bearing on its public statements in the matter, Mr. Assange has never accused the two women of being influenced by these considerations. It has been widely misreported that he has. Telephone records show that one of the women says that she "did not want to accuse JA [of] anything", "it was the police who made up the charges". The Swedish authorities seized the opportunity to ’get’ Mr. Assange. This was subsequently driven by a prominent Swedish politician, Claes Borgström, who became the centre of media attention as the state-funded representative of the two women. Sweden was just three weeks away from the general elections, and Borgström was running for the position of attorney general, and other scandals in his party had dominated the news. The case gained him extraordinary media exposure in the run up to the election by keeping the case alive, as well as replacing other stories. Borgström subsequently billed the state for 80 hours of speaking to the press in relation to just one of the women. At the time Borgström was also embroiled in the notorious Quick scandal, widely regarded as the worst in Sweden’s judicial history. Since 2010, it has become increasingly apparent that personal and national prestige have played a role in maintaining the stalemate. (See here.)
Why is the US investigation taking so long?
The WikiLeaks investigation is classed as a national security case. Multi-year investigations are common in national security cases, but the US government has also intimated that it would wait until Mr. Assange was in Sweden before proceeding further. The investigation is politically and diplomatically charged as would be a future extradition. These factors are likely also weighing on US decision-making as to timing. See here
Is Mr. Assange Swedish?
No. Mr. Assange is Australian and has no connection to Sweden and does not speak Swedish. He visited Sweden in August 2010 to give a lecture about the war in Afghanistan (where Swedish forces operate under US command).
What is the status of the United Kingdom’s actions against Mr. Assange?
Documents from Edward Snowden reveal that UK intelligence agency GCHQ was spying on WikiLeaks in 2012. The UK government admits to spending more than $10m on the ongoing embassy police encirclement against Mr. Assange, a figure increasing about $15k a day. Despite requests, it has refused to divulge further information. The encirclement expenditure has been a source of cross-party controversy in the United Kingdom, with the cost being equal 24,828 hospital beds or the training of 285 police. The UK government refuses to release most of its materials on Mr. Assange saying that to do so would compromise the United Kingdom’s international relationships and national security. But several prominent figures have spoken out about the situation.
"It’s absolutely ridiculous, that money should be spent on frontline policing. It’s completely wasted."
London Mayor Boris Johnson
"It’s absolute madness... either somebody else has to pay - that is, the Swedish authorities - or we just have to back off and stop guarding the embassy. It is ludicrous."
Baroness Jenny Jones, deputy chair of the Police & Crime Committee at the London Assembly
It is unfair for taxpayers to continue to fund this farce. The time has come for the Met to review its strategy on Assange, and withdraw the officers currently guarding the Ecuadorian embassy."
Former Scotland Yard royalty protection chief Dai Davies
Watch the interview with MEP Eva Joly, former French Presidential Candidate, Member of the European Parliament, and investigating judge. Read the transcript from her press conference in Stockholm on 27 March 2014 in English (original); or French.
Justice4Assange has released a systematic rebuttal of UK media myths around Julian Assange’s extradition.
This video is about Assange’s detention conditions in 2011 when he was monitored by SERCO.
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