Sweden must get priority on Assange — UK MPs
London, April 13 (IANS): Over 70 lawmakers in the UK have signed a letter urging the Home Secretary to give priority to a possible Swedish extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face rape allegations over a request from the US for hacking charges.
Assange, 47, remains in British custody after he was arrested on Thursday at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was holed up for almost seven years after breaching bail in 2012 over fears that sexual assault allegations lodged in Sweden could ultimately lead to his extradition to the US to face trial over the leaking of secret government information.
In 2010, WikiLeaks dumped thousands of confidential documents covering everything from the film industry to national security and war.
In the Friday letter, predominantly signed by members of the opposition Labour Party and parliamentarians, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was urged to “do everything you can to champion action that will ensure that Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden makes an extradition request”, Efe news reported.
“This would be so the formal investigation into an allegation of rape can be concluded and, if appropriate, a charge can be made and any trial can take place,” the letter said.
“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complaint should see justice be done,” the letter, coordinated by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips, added.
Assange has been accused of rape and other sexual offences, against two women, following a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. He has always denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual.
Swedish prosecutors will now re-examine the rape case to decide whether to resume it before the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020, the BBC said.
The letter by parliamentarians said it appeared that Swedish prosecutors had not been alerted in advance of Ecuador’s plans to withdraw asylum from Assange.
“The decision to rescind the political asylum of Assange by the Ecuadorian authorities seems to have been something of which both the UK and US authorities were made aware in advance,” it said.
“We would welcome clarity as to what actions the UK authorities took to ensure that the Swedish prosecutors were informed in advance of this decision.”
The letter came after the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK said that in the case of competing extradition requests, it was up to the Home Secretary to decide which to enact first.
On Thursday, a court found Assange guilty of breaching bail conditions seven years ago when he was due to answer for cases of sexual assault he allegedly committed in Sweden.
Assange is due to appear via video conference at the Westminster Magistrates Court on May 2 to begin proceedings for his possible extradition to the US, who want to investigate his links to Chelsea Manning, a former US soldier who supplied WikiLeaks with confidential information.