How do supporters of WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange make the leap that he is more likely to be extradited to the United States from Sweden than the United Kingdom? That is a common question and, certainly, a key question for anyone who remains skeptical of whether Assange should have been granted asylum by Ecuador.
The answer is Sweden is pursuing a legal case against Assange, a case that has not been pursued entirely in a reasonable manner. For example, Mark Weisbrot noted in his Guardian article yesterday former Stockholm chief district prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem “made it clear that the Swedish government had no legitimate reason to seek Assange’s extradition when he testified that the decision of the Swedish government to extradite Assange is ‘unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate,’ because he could be easily questioned in the UK.” If the US government were to announce a request to extradite Assange, it would be interfering with an astounding legal matter that Swedish authorities would have to decide whether to suspend or not.
Another bigger question is why Assange continues to claim the US has plans or intentions to “persecute” or, to use a term that is more neutral, prosecute him. Snide commentators, sneering correspondents and elite-minded former government officials discount any suggestion that the US might extradite Assange from Sweden. They do not even bother to take into account the existence of an empanelled grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, in the Eastern District that is investigating anyone who can be connected to the WikiLeaks organization.
Now, The Saturday Age, based in Australia, has published a report that features some critical details on the United States government’s plans for Assange. It describes Australian Foreign Aaffairs Department documents that were obtained under freedom of information laws and show the Australian diplomatic service “takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.” Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, sought “high-level US advice on ‘the direction and likely outcome of the investigation’ and “reiterated’ an Australian government request for “early advice of any decision to indict or seek extradition” of Assange.
The diplomatic cables identify “a wide range of criminal charges the US could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified information and computer fraud.” They indicate, “Australian diplomats expect that any charges against Assange would be carefully drawn in an effort to avoid conflict with the First Amendment free speech provisions of the US constitution.”