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As Julian Assange Faces Swedish Legal Setback, New Details Come to Light on U.S. Case Against Him

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spent nearly three years inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has political asylum. Assange faces investigations in both Sweden and the United States. A secret grand jury in Virginia is investigating WikiLeaks for its role in publishing a trove of leaked documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as State Department cables. In Sweden, he’s wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, though no charges have been filed. Earlier this month, Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected his appeal to lift his arrest warrant. Swedish prosecutors are reportedly preparing to travel to London to interview Assange, after refusing to do so for years.

Watch more from our Julian Assange interview: Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian, the Swedish Supreme Court just ruled against you in a four-to-one decision. Can you explain what this means for your case?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, the big case is the U.S. case, which started in the beginning of 2010. A grand jury was in place by the middle of 2010. A WikiLeaks war room was established by the Pentagon, comprised predominantly of Defense Intelligence Agency and FBI, over 120 people working 24/7, more than a dozen different government departments involved.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know this?

JULIAN ASSANGE: It’s publicly stated by those organizations. And subsequently, the case has narrowed down in its focus and is now being run by the Department of Justice National Security Division and the Department of Justice Criminal Division. The latest information is, in federal court this year, March 4th, the U.S. government again admitted that they are pending prosecution, and they are proceeding. And it is a national security criminal investigation, multi-subject, long-term pre-prosecution. And as a result, the press is not entitled to any information at all. There’s around 500 Freedom of Information requests from different media organizations trying to look at whether the case has been conducted in an illegal manner—spying on our supporters, spying on funding and so on. All of that is restricted under the basis that the matter is pending prosecution.

Now, the Swedish Supreme Court, in this split decision, said that they will not drop the arrest warrant. But interestingly, one judge did go our way, and the registrar itself. Documents have just now come out that the court investigated the matter and said that the arrest warrant should go away. So we have the court itself saying that due to injustices that have occurred in the matter to date, that it should be dropped, and one judge going our way. But ultimately, a decision was made. It looks like a political decision, that I think that the cost to—of face to Sweden and its relationship with the United States would be too much, and so, as a result, they’re not going to go there yet. But it’s still under consideration by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which is a panel of five, which is about to make a decision. And then we have other opportunities, the European Court of Human Rights and here in the United Kingdom.

The U.S. case against WikiLeaks is widely believed to be the largest-ever investigation into a publisher. It is extraterritorial. It’s setting new precedents about the ability of the U.S. government to reach out to any media publisher in Europe or the rest of the world, and try and achieve a prosecution. They say the offenses are conspiracy, conspiracy to commit espionage, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, computer hacking, conversion, stealing government documents.

AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering if you could respond to the lawyers for the complainant, Claes Borgström, for one of the complainants, who said he’s very satisfied by the Swedish Supreme Court’s decision, but surprised that one of the judges dissented. Borgström said, “If Assange was suspected of a theft or another minor crime, proportionality would be different, but he is suspected of rape, a very severe crime.” Your response?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, that’s simply not true. In fact, both of the women involved explicitly say that they had not alleged rape; in fact, even in the court documents, say that they had no intention of making a complaint and that this is something that the Swedish state brought.


JULIAN ASSANGE: But you mentioned—I mean, this is detail, but you mentioned this figure, Claes Borgström, and I think that’s interesting. This is detail which I think no one will know about, but this figure, Claes Borgström, is a very senior—was a very senior politician in Sweden. And the whole preliminary investigation—the preliminary investigation was dropped by the most senior prosecutor in Stockholm. It was Borgström, the politician, who intervened in the case, took it to another prosecutor in Gothenburg, the current one, and resurrected the matter, which is a quirk of the Swedish justice system that you can shop around to different prosecutors.

AMY GOODMAN: So one prosecutor can drop it, and another can then pick it up?

JULIAN ASSANGE: The most senior prosecutor of Stockholm, very well regarded, Eva Finné, dropped it and said there was no rape had been committed, then there was not even any evidence that there had and not an allegation that there had. And then he took this to Gothenburg. Subsequently, he has become the most disgraced lawyer in Sweden. He was kicked out of his political party. He’s involved as a central person in the most scandalous judicial case in Europe, the case of Thomas Quick, where an innocent man was convicted, across six separate trials, to eight murders and imprisoned for more than 20 years. All of those convictions have now been quashed, and he is free. But it was Claes Borgström who was a central figure in fixing the framing of Thomas Quick.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you keep up your health? I mean, you have not stepped foot outside in three years.

JULIAN ASSANGE: I think, like all other detained people, you just have to be diligent about your exercise. There’s a unique situation here. In some ways, it’s easier. It’s easier to get visitors, although you have to pass the police surveillance operation. On the other hand, yes, the absence of sunlight is a problem. There’s a reason why, since at least World War II, the U.N. minimum requirement for prisoners is at least one hour a day. Even solitary confinement prisoners are meant to get one hour a day, even if it’s in an outside exercise yard, even if it’s by themselves, to have the sun.

AMY GOODMAN: And you haven’t had that.


AMY GOODMAN: What give you hope?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, if you look at—despite the situation, we’ve kept together as an organization, have a really strong team that’s been through some pretty tough times. We have defeated this banking blockade. We continue on in our publications. Sources still have confidence that we can get impact for their material. A very wide range of people in the United States have come forward to work for us in a variety of different ways, probably most visibly Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights. We have more than—have used more than 150 lawyers. And we had to add it up the other day for another case. So that’s a lot—a lot of work in terms of the legal fight. But there’s something to be said that a small international investigative publisher is able to keep going under that pressure, and not only keep going, but to expand. Not many publishers have been expanding in the past five years.

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he’s taken refuge for the past three years. When we went inside the embassy on Memorial Day, British police asked the Ecuadorean Embassy to hand over our identification. We refused. Just hours before we went to air today, WikiLeaks released more than a half a million U.S. State Department cables from 1978. Tune in tomorrow, Thursday, for part two of our interview with the WikiLeaks founder. We’ll speak with Julian Assange about the cables, as well as the leaked Sony documents, the new ICWatch database, which culls personal details from LinkedIn posted by former members of the U.S. intelligence community, and the inside story about why the United States forced President Evo Morales to land during the 2013 hunt for Edward Snowden.

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