It was “sheer fantasy” that Julian Assange was in danger of being extradited from Sweden to the United States, Bob Carr declared in February. If anything, it was even less likely Assange could be extradited from Sweden than the United Kingdom.
Last night Swedish justice Stefan Lindskog — engaging in the highly unusual step of discussing publicly, and in detail, a case that might yet come before the Swedish justice system — described the case against Assange as “a mess” and, contrary to some media reports today, admitted the possibility that Assange might be extradited. Lindskog, perhaps purposefully hedging his bets on the issue of extradition, suggested it may be difficult for Assange to be legally extradited to the US under Swedish restrictions on extradition, but conceded Sweden had previously illegally rendered people to America.
In 2001 two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery, were handed by the Swedish government to the CIA and transported to Egypt, where they were tortured. The current Swedish ambassador to Australia, Sven-Olof Petersson, knew of the rendition at the time as a Swedish foreign affairs officer. Lindskog last night expressed the hope that the Swedish government wouldn’t act illegally in that manner again.
Carr’s cavalier dismissal of the threat to Assange is consistent with his insouciant approach to the case. Carr has persistently denied there is a US investigation underway into Assange, despite the fact that as recently as last week a Department of Justice spokesman confirmed a WikiLeaks grand jury investigation is continuing.
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The allegations made against Assange in Sweden are serious, and deserve to be resolved. But they should not be the pretext for yet another US government assault on whistleblowers and online activists — people it has persistently subjected to exemplary punishment and ongoing persecution. But the response of Carr, and the Gillard government, has been to turn its back.