ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Ratner Report.
Now joining us is Michael Ratner. He’s the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and he is also a board member of The Real News.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: It’s always good to be with The Real News, Anton.
WORONCZUK: So, Michael, what have you been working on this week?
RATNER: Well, this week has been an important week and a big week for thinking about how we’re going to ultimately get Assange’s asylum recognized–that’s Julian Assange, who’s in the Ecuadorian embassy, and I’m one of his lawyers–and how we can get him out of that embassy and safely into Ecuador.
And so this week the lawyers in Sweden filed a legal case in Sweden in an attempt to dismiss what’s called a European arrest warrant, which was issued four years ago, or almost four years ago, in Sweden, and it’s, of course, one of the reasons that Assange had to go into the embassy, because had he been sent to Sweden, we feel it would have been a one-way ticket to the United States. So they filed papers in Sweden a number of weeks ago, and they finally had the hearing on July 16 in Sweden.
And as I said, a warrant was issued almost four years ago. Julian has been in the embassy for two years already–we just passed the two-year anniversary. And the European arrest warrant, which was issued through Sweden, was what the British arrested him on. And then there was an extradition hearing, which ultimately Julian Assange lost.
The reason he went into the Embassy, as I said, is because of fears that had he gone to Sweden, Sweden’s close cooperation with United States on extraditions, on rendering people to other countries, would have meant surely that he was going to the U.S., where the U.S. has been in heavily investigating Julian for his activities as a publisher of WikiLeaks.
Once he went into that Embassy, the Ecuadorians granted him asylum. That carries a lot of rights with it. One of the rights is that other countries have to recognize asylum, can’t interfere with it. And Julian should have had a right to walk out that embassy, get on a plane to Ecuador, and be safely in Ecuador. Unfortunately and sadly, the United Kingdom won’t recognize it, Sweden won’t recognize it, and the U.S. won’t recognize it.
Which brings us to the current efforts that the Swedish lawyers have made in the Swedish courts to get that warrant dropped in Sweden. We should all understand that even if that effort is ultimately successful, that he will still have a problem walking out of that Embassy as long as the U.S. wants to get their hands on him, ’cause the British very well could and I think likely would arrest him and eventually get him off to the United States.
So here’s what the Swedish lawyers filed a little while ago. They filed a case, as I said, in Sweden, and they said first of all the warrant should be dropped, because there was no probable cause to arrest Julian Assange, that the allegations–and I want to repeat: only allegations have been made against Julian Assange. He has not been charged. The allegations don’t make out a case under Swedish law. That was ground number one.
Ground number two, which I find to be just remarkable, is considering that this case began almost four years ago in Sweden, that the prosecutor has done nothing to push the case forward in four years. The prosecutor claims that she wants to question Julian Assange, but she refuses, despite repeated efforts by Julian Assange and his lawyers to say, come to London, question us here, question us by Skype, refuses to do that. The lawyers in Sweden assert that that’s a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, that it violates Julian Assange’s a fundamental right to liberty. What you can’t do in the world, you can’t do under the European conventions, you can’t do even under Swedish law, or at least shouldn’t be able to, is just make the allegations and not follow up. But that’s what has happened so far. It gives you a great reason to believe that something else is afoot here than the allegations against Julian Assange in Sweden.
The third assertion by the lawyers or the third legal claim is that the warrant for his arrest is unnecessary because it cannot be legally executed. Once you have asylum, you can’t go execute a warrant–you can’t exercise a warrant. You have to recognize the right to asylum.
And the fourth ground was that Julian Assange has a right to the evidence in his case, particularly certain SMS messages between the two women whose allegations are embodied in the complaint against Julian on those SMS messages. The lawyers for Julian believe indicate that the prosecutors were pursuing their own agenda to push the case forward and not the agenda of the women.
It’s interesting. The response of the prosecutor–I won’t give all them, but one of the interesting ones and one that to me is really so outrageous: the prosecutor says she won’t go to the embassy to question Julian Assange because [in May we?] have to be in Sweden anyway for trial, so there’s no point to questioning him. That makes no sense. They’re questioning him to see if the allegations make out a charge, so they don’t know before they question him. But she’s assuming that if they question him, they’re going to charge. Makes no sense at all, but again shows the bias of the Swedish prosecutor in the case.
The hearing was widely covered, Tweeted, etc. I saw part of it where they actually presented a short piece of video about all of the efforts in the United States against Julian, from the grand jury calling him or vice president calling him a high-tech terrorist, people even on some newscasts calling for his assassination, showing that he’s under great, great jeopardy of persecution in the United States.
Despite what I considered a very strong case, within a few hours of the hearing the judge issued a decision in Sweden. It was so short as to be laughable. It dealt summarily with what I consider to be serious issues in the case. No reasoning. No legal basis. The only good thing I can say about it is that the judge didn’t even make any serious effort to grapple with the issues. And therefore on the appeal I think we expect that Julian Assange will do better and that maybe some relief will be had on the case in Sweden.
Now, I should say that even were the worst to happen, or, you know, the worst in Sweden, that there is an appeal to go into a European Court, and hopefully that will prevail even if we can’t in Sweden.
Unfortunately–and really unfortunately–the Swedish decision is par for the course. It’s consistent, what has been said about the Swedish judicial system for a number of years, that it’s an unfair system, but particularly pretrial, which is the phase Julian is in–actually precharge that Julian is in, that it’s particularly unfair, doesn’t comply with due process. And in June of this year, 59 human rights organizations and jurist organizations worldwide filed papers with the United Nations with their periodic review of Sweden’s compliance with international human rights law, complaining about Julian’s case and about generally in Sweden the fact that it really is out of compliance with the European Union law as well as the law in the United Nations.
To go back for a second–well, not really back; to really end this segment–the end, of course: the U.S. is the big bear in the room. As late as April of this year, they said they have an ongoing investigation in both the criminal division and the national security division of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, and that’s really, ultimately, the remedy for Julian Assange is to get enough support to get the bear off his back, or, really, the bear in the room, which is the United States. Despite these incredible efforts of Sweden and the U.K. and the U.S. to put Julian Assange and WikiLeaks out of business, it’s good to be able to say that WikiLeaks is surviving–not only surviving, but in many ways flourishing.
So I look forward still at some point, hopefully within the next year, to get Julian out of that embassy and safely ensconced in the country of Ecuador.
WORONCZUK: Okay. Michael Ratner, thanks for that update.
RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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