Assange Marks 3 Years in Custody: Still in Great Jeopardy from US
Michael Ratner, lawyer of Wikileaks founder, says his client wants to clear any allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden but the fear of extradition to U.S. keeps him in Ecuadorian embassy in Britain
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ratner Report.
Now joining us is the man behind the report, Michael Ratner. He’s the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and he’s a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: It’s always good to be with you, Jessica, and The Real News.
DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: So, Michael, what’s brewing this week? What are you working on?
RATNER: Well, this week–you know, the unexpected always occurs. This week I’m dealing with one of my clients, Julian Assange, who, as I’m sure your listeners or viewers know, is in the Ecuador Embassy. He’s there because, at least ostensibly, he’s–doesn’t want to go to Sweden, and he doesn’t want to go to Sweden because he’s very fearful that he will then be sent on to the United States, where he may well be facing serious charges of espionage, computer theft, etc.
Yes, there are no charges against him in Sweden. There’s allegations of sexual misconduct. He’s willing to answer those questions, except he can’t go to Sweden right now because of that fear of the United States. And the Swedes have so far refused to guarantee that he would not get sent to the United States. The British have refused to do that. And so he’s really stuck in the embassy.
The news that happened in the last ten days are really two articles in The Washington Post, one on November 18, one on November 25. The November 18 article says anonymous U.S. officials say Assange is not under sealed indictment in the US. The other one most recently said Julian Assange unlikely to face U.S. charges over publishing classified material. Both by anonymous sources, both in The Washington Post.
It’s caused a huge amount of publicity and PR against Julian Assange, particularly in Sweden, Australia, his home country, and some here in the United States. People are asserting, well, he’s really just sitting in that embassy because he’s afraid go to Sweden, not because he’s afraid to go to the United States.
What’s happened is those newspapers, those lawyers, those commentators have really picked up only part of the article. They don’t understand what’s really going on here.
And in my view as one of Julian’s lawyers, at this point he should not walk out of that embassy. He should not go to Sweden. There is still a very high risk of him being prosecuted in the United States.
When those articles are read carefully–and not even that carefully, but those people who accuse Julian Assange of a fantasy by saying he’ll be arrested and be sent to the United States, had they read them at all, what they actually say is that he won’t be prosecuted, according to this source, for publishing the classified material, but that the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks remains empaneled, and that the investigation is continuing.
The other thing it says in those articles, and it was very narrow, that he wouldn’t be prosecuted for publishing classified materials, because The New York Times would have to be prosecuted then as well. But it doesn’t say–and it actually says–on the other hand, if there was other criminal activity, he could be prosecuted [incompr.] somehow he was in a conspiracy or aiding and abetting Bradley Manning, who was one of–Chelsea Manning, one of the sources of the documents for WikiLeaks, then he could be prosecuted for that.
So the articles are really very narrow. They were misread–purposely, I think–by both a Swedish lawyer who commented on them, as well as Australian papers who have commented on them. And, in fact, he is in great jeopardy.
So what you have here is the omission of evidence in a way of trying to paint Julian’s personality and destroy his personality and say he’s only hiding out to not go to Sweden. As again I said, the articles say it’s continuing. They’re continuing a criminal investigation.
And the other thing is, we have written to the Justice Department many times, talked to them myself, as well as other lawyers, and they have never been willing to say anything about the ending of investigation of Julian Assange.
What it seems to me that people ought to be arguing for in Sweden, as well as in Australia and other places, is for the Swedes to guarantee that Julian Assange won’t be sent to the United States or the British to guarantee that–or arguing that the Swedes should come to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and interview Julian Assange to just put an end to this really is what our Department of Justice or, really, our prosecutors said just a few days ago, on November 26. The prosecutor issued a statement about the status of Julian Assange’s case. Here’s the quote. Fay Brundage, a spokeswoman for the attorneys office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is where the grand jury is sitting, which is responsible for the WikiLeaks investigation, said it, quote, was still ongoing. That’s really the last word on it. As that’s the last word on it, Julian Assange cannot leave that embassy until he gets the guarantees.
To be frank, as his lawyer, he’s been there for 20 months. You know, I’m sick and tired of hearing people say that he is not leaving that embassy because he is afraid to go and answer questions in Sweden. What I want to see people say, everyone, whether they love Julian Assange or don’t like him or whether they think he should be facing something in Sweden or not, is let the Swedes come and question Julian, or let him get safe guarantees that he won’t get sent to the United States. That’s what we need for Julian Assange. He shouldn’t be in that embassy any longer. WikiLeaks is still a strong functioning organization despite it. But 20 months in the embassy is long enough.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Alright. Michael Ratner, always a pleasure having you on.
RATNER: Thank you for having me.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX: And thank you for had joining us on The Real News Network.
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