Why Britain is likely to send WikiLeaks' Assange to Sweden on rape charges
The legal team of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may fight his potential extradition to Sweden on human rights grounds, but it's unlikely Mr. Assange will avoid it, say legal experts.
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The Australian, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Swedish authorities, denies allegations that he sexually assaulted two women and has hinted that the charges are part of a smear campaign by those eager to halt his website's ongoing release of secret US government documents.
The early indications are that his legal team will contest his extradition on grounds such as the failure of Swedish authorities to provide him with adequate details of the warrant issued there.
The team may also fight the extradition on human rights grounds – including that Assange could be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden and that the massive media attention would make it even more difficult for him to have a fair trial.
But it's unlikely that Assange will avoid extradition, say legal experts. And the legal process in Britain is likely to be rapid, thanks to the EAW system, which was introduced in 2004 to allow for the fairly prompt transfer of suspects from one European country to another.
“I know that there is a suggestion that the warrant is being misused in some way for political purposes against [Assange], but I can’t really see any evidence of that at face value,” says Mark Mackarel, a lecturer at Dundee Law School in Scotland and an expert in the EAW. “I don’t doubt that there are all sorts of efforts to undermine WikiLeaks, even to the extent that individuals are being leaned on to inconvenience or make life difficult for [Assange], but I think that the actual surrender process under the EAW is quite a transparent one."
Mr. Mackarel says Sweden would have a lot to lose by pursuing Assange for purely political reasons.
“OK, there have been some suggestions that Sweden is bowing to political pressure and is, for example, requesting his surrender for reasons other than the prosecution of the offense," says Mackarel. "But there really would have to be some substantial backing or evidence for a British judge to accept that and refuse the surrender on those grounds. For Sweden to misuse the warrant in this way would be potentially hugely damaging for it.”