British Government Passes the Buck to Sweden Where the Military Offense Exclusion Protects Julian Assange From Extradition to the Us

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Yves here. Recall that the UK refused to knuckle under to US pressure not to do business with Huawei, and also appears to have woken up to the fact that the US is prepared to take advantage of UK desperation in the event of a hard or crash-out Brexit. So Helmer’s reading may not be as much of a stretch as it might appear to US readers, who assume that the UK is ever and always America’s poodle.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

The Swedish Government’s decision that there is “still probable cause” for Julian Assange to be tried for a sexual offence committed against a sleeping woman nine years ago is a political gift to the British Government. London lawyers specializing in extradition cases say it is now up to Home Secretary Sajid Javid,  the British justice minister,  to decide whether the Swedish charge against Assange is more serious than the US charge of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, filed against Assange in London on April 11. That’s a political decision Prime Minister Theresa May will make, if she remains in power. It’s a move she is believed to have negotiated with the Swedes to avoid a judgement by British judges that American prosecutors are too prejudiced for Assange to get a fair trial in the US.

“When there are competing requests the Secretary of State [Javid] decides which request takes priority,” the source said. “There are various mandatory, though not exhaustive statutory considerations including when requests are received and the gravity of the allegations. Given the respective allegations, the potential time limitation issues in Sweden and the history of the matter I would anticipate that would be a strong factor weighing in favour of the Swedish request.”

Other sources believe extradition to Sweden offers Assange a better than even chance of acquittal on the Swedish charge. The sources also believe that resistance by the Swedish courts to US political pressure for extradition will be greater than Prime Minister May or the British courts want to show.

Until the Swedish Prosecution Authority acted on Monday, Assange was facing the likelihood of up to three years of proceedings before a London magistrate and the appeals courts. That process is a non-political one restricted to the courts and judges; they have shown reluctance in several notable cases to extradite British citizens who are US targets. The likelihood of an independent judiciary ruling against the US was spelled out here.

In Stockholm on May 13 Sweden’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson said her agency has decided there is “probable cause for an allegation of rape from August 2010”. They will reopen the old case, she said, and apply for a “ detention order… to Uppsala District Court, as the suspected crime took place in Enköping municipality.”

She confirmed there have been negotiations with British officials. “Julian Assange has been convicted of a crime in the UK and will serve 25 weeks of his sentence before he can be released, according to information from UK authorities. I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US. In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the US, UK authorities will decide on the order of priority. The outcome of this process is impossible to predict. However, in my view the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the UK.”

Assange may be questioned while in British jail, but only if he and his lawyers consent.  They are not saying if they will.

The Swedish statement reveals that British officials have told the Swedes that although Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks of imprisonment on the bail violation charge, he may be released after 25 weeks; this six-month period would expire in October.

There have been no comments on the Stockholm announcement by Assange’s British lawyers, Geoffrey Robertson and Jennifer Robinson; their silence since mid-April is highly unusual.

Assange’s colleagues at Wikileaks and in Sweden  have released contradictory statements, indicating they aren’t sure whether the Swedish option is a more favourable one for Assange  than the British.

Swedish law on extradition, according to this government summary, raises two legal questions – does  the indictment federal US prosecutors presented in London last month amount to a crime in Sweden, or is it a lawful act of publication and freedom of speech? And is the US Government pursuing Assange for political reasons?

THE US CHARGE AGAINST ASSANGE


Source: https://www.justice.gov/

“Extradition is permitted,” according to Stockholm,  “provided that the act for which extradition is requested is equivalent to a crime that is punishable under Swedish law by imprisonment for at least one year. If sentence has been passed in the state applying for extradition, the penalty must be imprisonment for at least four months or other institutional detention for an equivalent period. Thus, extradition requires an offence punishable under the law of both countries (“dual criminality”) that, in principle, is of a certain degree of seriousness.”

The wording of the US indictment accuses Assange of a military offence. “On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning  in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications, as designated according to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders.” The indictment claims the alleged offence  was committed by a serving soldier in a combat zone. “Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning  was an intelligence analyst in the United States Army, who was deployed to Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq.”

Identification of the Pentagon as Assange’s target is significant because his alleged offence is explicitly excluded from extradition under Article V Sections 4 and 5 of Sweden’s extradition law:

US-SWEDEN CONVENTION ON EXTRADITION, 1961


Source: US-Sweden Convention on Extradition, October 1961 

“Extradition may not be granted for military or political offences”, reads the current Swedish Government statement. “Nor may extradition be granted if there is reason to fear that the person whose extradition is requested runs a risk – on account of his or her ethnic origins, membership of a particular social group or religious or political beliefs – of being subjected to persecution threatening his or her life or  freedom, or is serious in some other respect. Nor, moreover, may extradition be granted if it would be contrary to fundamental humanitarian principles… Nor may extradition be granted if the offence would have been statute-barred by limitation under Swedish law.”

A Swedish Court of Appeal review of the case on Assange’s alleged sexual offences, issued in September 2016, judged that he was still liable for extradition to Sweden on the rape charge, but that once in Swedish custody, he would be covered by Swedish law protections against extradition to the US.  “There may be an impediment if extradition of a person is requested for a political offence”, a three-judge panel ruled.

The Swedish courts have decided that drug smuggling and murder are not political offences covered by Art. V, but espionage is.  Until a month ago, it didn’t occur to the Swedes or to Assange’s defenders that the US prosecutors would  charge him with a “purely military offense”. The Americans came up with that in order to satisfy British objections to extradition on a journalism or political offence.

Earlier reporting of Swedish government assessments indicates that the Swedish courts are likely to look behind the current US indictment to the political context of the American accusations against Assange. If the Virginia prosecutors were to change their indictment for Stockholm, that would trigger even stronger Swedish resistance, based on the case of CIA agent, Edward Lee Howard (right). On the run from the US he was arrested in Sweden in 1992. He was released, however, on the Swedish judicial ruling that his alleged spying was a political offence under Art.V (5). Howard then flew to safe haven in Moscow. A decade later, he reportedly died in July 2002 after an accidental fall at his dacha.

The British Labour Party has opposed British extradition on the US charges. A letter to Home Secretary Javid, signed by 71 mostly Labour MPs,   the day after Assange was arrested inside the Ecuador Embassy, urged Javid to give priority to the Swedish rape charge over the US claim.  Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, tweeted:  “our priority should be the 2 alleged victims of sexual violence in Sweden & not a ruse to get him extradited to the US as a whistleblower.”

“Between the British, Swedes and Americans right now,” comments a London press source,  “there is a no-love-lost triangle over Assange.  Only the Americans really want him; the British and Swedes don’t want to fight the Americans on Assange’s behalf, but they don’t want to pay the domestic political price of caving in on the press freedom and whistleblower issues.  Everyone is looking for a way out. Maybe the Swedes will follow the Howard precedent; they will acquit Assange and then put him on a plane to Moscow. That’s if the Kremlin agrees.”

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41 comments

  1. Alex V

    The argument of a strictly military offense may not fly, as Section 641 covers any government information. Section 793 is for military matters. The indictment cites both.

    Reply
  2. Mark

    Under most interpretations of extradition law, “military offense” means conduct which violates a military code not otherwise proscribed by criminal law. Unauthorized access to a computer, even though it is a military computer, is not a “military” offense since it is otherwise proscribed under criminal law. And Sweden surely has a domestic law prohibiting unauthorized computer access.

    Reply
    1. grayslady

      Assange is not the one who had access to the computer, either authorized or unauthorized; that was Chelsea Manning. Assange simply published the information. As has been said elsewhere, Assange is being persecuted for doing journalism. I don’t know why Helmer is bringing up the military angle, unless it is because the word “military” appears alongside “political” extradition issues.

      Reply
      1. Bill Smith

        I thought there was nothing actually in the indictment about publishing. It’s only about helping Manning using a password cracker of some sort.

        Reply
      2. chuck roast

        It’s my understanding that the reason the US is persecuting Manning with the Grand Jury is that they want Manning to say that Assange gave the computer access code to Manning. Is this unauthorized access to a computer by proxy?

        Reply
        1. Christina

          Chelsea Manning had access. She did NOT have to break any codes, hack, access passwords. She had security clearance for all the documents and videos she passed on to Wikileaks. She first went to her superior officer to bring his/her attention to the war crimes being committed. That person wanted her to forget about it. She could not…the rest is history. Besides, she served her sentence for this.

          Reply
  3. Oh

    Britain will still face immense pressure and so will Sweden. I hope Julian Assange is not extradited to the US. It will certainly mean the death of true journalism.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether

      > It will certainly mean the death of true journalism.

      Assange ending up in Russia isn’t all that great either, since it reinforces the RussiaRussiaRussia narrative.

      Reply
  4. Light a Candle

    I think Assange is being set up. Sweden clearly does not have an independent judicial system as can be seen on how they have handled the accusations against Assange: to maximize the damage against Assange’s reputation. In fact, rule of law is a joke in most Western countries.

    Assange will be convicted (wrongfully) of sexual assault in order to alienate popular support.

    Then he will be extradited to the U.S. for a secret trial, convicted and imprisoned in a way to limit contact and support.

    The Deep State plays a long game.

    Reply
    1. pretzelattack

      seems quite possible. i’m not sure how independent the uk legal system is, either, when the rubber meets the road. it’s possible they are are trying to pass off the hot potato, but equally possible they are rolling over in hopes of a treat or a kind word.

      Reply
      1. Light a Candle

        I had thought Sweden was independent of the US until I saw how Sweden treated the accusations against Assange.

        Sweden, Holland and France are all US poodles, along with the 5 eye countries.

        Reply
        1. Alex V

          One thing not to forget – the Assange saga started under a Moderate party government. Reinfeldt was quite friendly with Bush and Obama. That party has historically been more friendly to the US compared to the current Social Democrats; they however also roll over far too easily.

          Reply
        2. En svensk pudlar

          Exactly. Sweden is a poodle. They recognized Guiado in Venezuela too as one of the latest examples of rollovership. There is Swedish military in Afghanistan. Löfven has been to the White House and you don’t get invited unless you are a poodle.

          Sweden has a track record of extraditing people to guaranteed torture. Assange will be extradite by the Swedish amoebas as soon as enough damage has been done to his reputation as others here point out

          https://www.hrw.org/news/2006/11/09/sweden-violated-torture-ban-cia-rendition

          Reply
          1. Alex V

            The attempt at a Swedish username is quaint, but you mixed the singular and plural. I’m guessing Google Translate has also been crapified.

            Reply
          2. Thomas P

            That rendition was supposed to remain secret, and when it was revealed it caused an outrage in Sweden. Assange is way too public for something like that. You are right that in many was Sweden is a poodle, but one that doesn’t like to be seen as one.

            Reply
      2. Harry

        Many useful things can be achieved by the appropriate selection of judge. Can we have an independent judiciary and a civil service clever enough to game it?

        Reply
    2. Chris Smith

      I think you are on to something. A sex crime conviction will give good liberals some #metoo-based permission to ignore his plight and the damage done to journalism.

      Reply
      1. ChrisPacific

        Naomi Wolf talked about this back in 2010 (warning: contains graphic descriptions of crimes that have never been prosecuted). Her objection seems to be much the same as ours to people who loudly denounce the financial misdeeds of Trump and his supporters, having themselves turned a blind eye to many similar (and worse) examples for decades.

        Reply
  5. Joe Well

    I am here in liberal Greater Boston among law-abiding highly-educated people, and this outrage against the rule of law and human rights does not stir any opposition whatsoever. Of course, what can you expect in the heartland of Raytheon? But it’s still amazing just how thin the veneer of civilization is in the 21st century USA.

    Reply
    1. Harry

      Just try muscling into someone else’s lane in traffic or stealing someones dug out parking space post snowstorm, and you will find out just how thin the veneer of civilization really is!

      I only wish someone could do something about DD. Still could be worse. Could be Starbucks.

      Reply
  6. pretzelattacks

    has the us doj or whoever would be responsible taken a position on this? so far i haven’t heard anything. as the party driving all this, i would think the u.s. position would indicate what is really going on.

    Reply
    1. Kari Sprowl

      So, there could be hope.
      The same DOJ that covered for Hillary Clinton (told the FBI to back off, her( and stopped the investigation of a pedo sex ring?

      Reply
  7. Molly

    The criminals in power are embarrassed of having their injustices and wrongdoings exposed and reported. This is what it’s all about.

    The alleged sexual molestations investigations has been dropped twice. If there is seriousness in the allegations, Sweden could have interviewed Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy; they had so much time to do it, yet they didn’t. Sweden government and authority, show some strength and independence from the US, show for once you can’t be bullied into extraditing someone for political reason. The world will be better off for it.

    Reply
  8. Oregoncharles

    Ha. I thought, and said, that Sweden was the better bet for Assange – especially since the accusations there seem very questionable. Plus, Swedish jails vs. American. Sweden is actually a civilized country.

    Evidently Helmer agrees, and it’s possible the British gov’t. does, too.

    Reply
    1. shtove

      I believe they did interview him in the embassy, following which the investigation was suspended, and no charges were brought. I haven’t followed this very closely, and it’s always easy to get lit up about the motes in other countries’ judicial peepers, but my impression is that the Swedish allegations will run into the sand.

      Anyone know which of the complainants revived the allegations? As far as I can tell, the original complaint was made jointly by two women who wanted the system to compel Assange to undergo STD tests, rather than have him prosecuted. But it’s reported that the second complainant had previously been expelled from Cuba as a CIA operative.

      In any case, it’s all ghastly. What a waste of good will on all sides.

      Reply
      1. animalogic

        “But it’s reported that the second complainant had previously been expelled from Cuba as a CIA operative.”
        Can anyone confirm this CIA connection, which if true is very interesting, indeed?

        Reply
  9. mauisurfer

    Russia would certainly NOT grant refuge to Assange.
    For Russia there would be no benefit,
    USA has made its relationship with Russia very difficult/impossible.
    Russia knows better than to add fuel to the USA fire.
    Would you shelter the abused spouse of a homicidal madman?

    Reply
    1. philnc

      Actually, there are people who do that all the time. They’re called domestic abuse shelters, safe houses for battered spouses and their children. It’s a thing here in the US because domestic abuse is an epidemic, just like political persecution is. When many of us were growing up, the USSR was the big bad political persecution, imprisoning people for revealing “state secrets” (like the existence of the Gulag) or to prevent them from doing so. The PRC was another. The US was a haven for political refugees, or so we were led to believe. The persecutions of Snowden, Manning and Assange make me ashamed to be a US citizen. What’s even more disheartening is that the politicization of the last case will now taint any finding of guilt for sexual misconduct, whatever the true facts. That’s a disservice to everyone, especially any legitimate victims.

      Reply
  10. flora

    Hard to image the UK and Sweden doing this if Clinton or Jeb was president. Trump, however, is so disliked by UK and Sweden and EU it’s politically easier to snub the US demand on this, imo.

    Reply
  11. Lupemax

    Has anyone read Stieg Larsson’s books? the violence against women, the violence in general, the corruption? – and the fact that he had to write fiction to get the info out there? And that he had planned to write 10 volumes but “died” after the third?

    Reply
  12. Temporarily Sane

    I think it was Naomi Wolf who pointed out that Assange’s alleged sexual transgression has received way more media attention than these type of cases (high status male accused of sexual assault) usually do. I’d add that publicly destroying a person’s character in order to discredit them and any organization they represent is a very basic propaganda technique.

    Also revealing is how the #metoo liberal feminist brigade on Twitter had a field day trashing Pamela Anderson when she went to visit Assange at Belmarsh. These people really are their own worst enemies. Imagine if Bernie Sanders had a compulsive hugging problem ala Uncle Joe…we’d never hear the end of it. Their arrogance and tone-deaf elitism is just unreal.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether

      > Also revealing is how the #metoo liberal feminist brigade on Twitter had a field day trashing Pamela Anderson when she went to visit Assange at Belmarsh.

      I wish I had a switch that flipped my own moral outrage on and off, given whatever the situation might be. How useful that would be in relieving stress, finding anger outlet, playing team sports, etc.

      Reply
  13. DHG

    The UK-US is the current world power, it goes down to its destruction fully functional, no other world powers are forthcoming. Once you understand this the UK is not going to completely deny the US assistance, they may appear to balk at certain things, but the justice and extradition agreements are long standing and understood. Assange is going to face US justice.

    Reply
  14. RBHoughton

    Helmer is the man to go to for his very helpful review of the extradition precedents that bear on Julian Assange’s case. A visit to the links in this article provide a full review, particularly on the subject of the likelihood of an independent judicial review in UK. That puts NC readers way ahead of the MSM guesswork and on more solid ground. Thank you very much Mr Helmer and NC.

    However, all is not well. There is a UK Government lawyer Paul Close, identified on a London news site, who has taken an personal interest in ‘getting’ Assange and directing the Swedish prosecutors to obey him, presumably on behalf of the cousins – his role in this sordid persecution should be made clear before he can cause others to suffer.

    Reply

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