London’s High Court has ruled Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief, should be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes. Swedish authorities want to question Assange over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. Assange’s lawyers have argued the Swedish demand is legally flawed and that the sex was consensual. They are also concerned that the U.S. government will pressure Sweden to extradite him to the United States, where an ongoing investigation is underway about the source(s) who leaked classified U.S. diplomatic cables and Department of Defense files to WikiLeaks. They are now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the European Court of Human Rights. For more, we speak with Helena Kennedy, an attorney on Assange’s legal team. We also air a statement made by Julian Assange this morning in London. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: London’s High Court has ruled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited from Britain to Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes. Swedish authorities want to question Assange over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. Assange’s lawyers have argued the Swedish demand is legally flawed and that the sex was consensual. They’re now considering an appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court and/or the European Court of Human Rights.
For more, we go directly to Oxford, England, for an update from Helena Kennedy, one of Assange’s lawyers.
Helena Kennedy, thanks so much for joining us from the BBC studios. Can you talk about the significance of this ruling today?
HELENA KENNEDY: Well, of course, there’s great disappointment amongst the legal team. We had been hopeful that the court would recognize that there had been a number of things that hadn’t been done appropriately in seeking to gain the extradition for questioning. We have to remember, this is for questioning and not to proceed to trial, or even to charging. They still want to investigate and see whether indeed the allegations have substance.
But so, having failed at this stage, it’s for us now to sit down and really review the very detailed judgment which has come down from the court and decide whether in fact there might be issues to take to the Supreme Court. Our Supreme Court has to decide whether there are matters of, if you like, legal moment that need to be considered. It’s not an appeal on the merits; it’s whether there’s a legal issue in here that needs a further consideration. And they will decide whether it passes that threshold. And if they decide that it doesn’t, then of course there’s another stage for us, which is, having exhausted remedies here in Britain, whether we have an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Why fight the extradition so hard? He hasn’t been charged, you’ve pointed out. What would it mean if Julian Assange were to be sent to Sweden for questioning?
HELENA KENNEDY: Well, you’ve got to remember that Julian Assange agreed and put forward a number of proposals as to the questioning. He suggested that the authorities in Sweden could come to Britain and, either at the Swedish embassy or at Scotland Yard, interview him about these matters. The fact that Sweden wasn’t prepared to accept those ways of proceeding, I think, fed—has fed his own concerns about the fairness of the whole process. You’ve got to remember that, initially, the authorities had not felt there was any need to proceed with these matters, and it was in a rather, we felt, strange way that the decision was revisited and that another prosecutor in a different city came to a different conclusion. And so, not surprisingly, Julian Assange himself has anxieties about whether he will get a fair trial. And so, that’s why, having made the offer that the authorities and police in Sweden could come and invest—interview him here, that they didn’t want to do that, they want him there, has given him the impression that, in fact, perhaps some decisions have been made already about this and that it’s not just a matter of investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Helena Kennedy, prominent British civil liberties and human rights attorney. We’re going to play a clip of Julian Assange’s response, on the steps of the courthouse.
JULIAN ASSANGE: I have not been charged with any crime in any country. Despite this, the European arrest warrant is so restrictive that it prevents U.K. courts from considering the facts of a case, as judges have made clear here today. We will be considering [inaudible] step in the days ahead. The full judgment will be available on swedenversusassange.com. No doubt, there will be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings as they occur today, but they are merely technical. So please go to swedenversusassange.com if you want to know what’s really going on in this case. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Helena Kennedy, if you could elaborate on what Julian Assange said, and does this mean he remains under virtual house arrest now?
HELENA KENNEDY: Well, he’ll remain under house arrest and the very stringent conditions attached to his bail, until a moment when either a court overturns the decision or he is taken to the airport and placed on an airplane and taken to Sweden.
But you have to remember that we’ve had a big change in law in the last decade in Britain, in that we have very much softened up the procedures for extradition and for the handing over of persons for investigation to other European authorities. We have a different kind of arrangement with the United States. But that softening up of the arrangements has been in order for Europe to deal more expeditiously with matters. There were often long delays before cases were dealt with. And so, there was a reluctance in our courts to go against the spirit of that, which is that if another country in Europe connected to the European Convention and so on—if they make a request, that there has to be a very powerful case not to do it. And we had hoped that we had passed the threshold in the legal argument in the court of appeal, but the judges, by and large, are rather predisposed to go with any request. And so, we knew it was going to be an uphill struggle, simply on the technicalities of this, rather than on the merits.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Helena Kennedy, prominent British civil liberties and human rights attorney, on the High Court’s decision in Britain right now that has just been handed down, denying Julian Assange’s—denying his appeal not to be extradited to Sweden.