Supporters of Julian Assange, the founder of transparency website WikiLeaks, have stated their concern that Assange is the victim of unfair treatment by Swedish prosecutors in a matter completely unrelated to WikiLeaks. In addition to his WikiLeaks exploits, where he revealed classified information detailing abuses by the United States government, Assange is wanted by Swedish officials for questioning about having unprotected sex with two women in 2010.
According to Assange’s defense lawyers and supporters, Swedish prosecutors have refused to question Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been holed up since 2012. Swedish officials say that is simply not the case.
The Australian was granted political asylum by Ecuador in June 2012 to avoid extradition to the United States, where he would be imprisoned for life over WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of classified United States diplomatic and military documents. Traveling to Sweden to be questioned regarding the alleged sexual assaults would likely lead to his transfer to the U.S., hence his request to be questioned in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Jen Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team, claims important questions must be answered after she found out that 44 other people were questioned by Swedish prosecutors in the United Kingdom during the period Assange was at the embassy. Robinson told the Press Association that, “First, [Swedish officials] refused to take [Assange’s] testimony while he remained in Sweden. Then they refused to hear it in the U.K., saying it was illegal to come here. Five years later, after being rebuked by their own courts, they say they’ll consider it . . . Instead of hearing what [Assange] had to say, the prosecutor chose to cast a shadow of suspicion over him by seeking his extradition. We offered his testimony from London before the arrest warrant was issued, and have continued to offer it since.”
Robinson’s claims that, “The prosecutor could have – and should have – availed herself of this mechanism to progress the investigation. Denying [Assange] this possibility for five years is the original injustice that has enabled many more injustices in this case,” Despite these sentiments, Swedish prosecutor Cecilia Riddselius blatantly disagrees.
After first taking the position that Assange must come to Sweden for questioning, Swedish officials had a change in heart and agreed to question Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Swedish officials state that the questioning was then postponed after Ecuador demanded Sweden give Assange asylum as a condition of the meeting. Riddselius fought back stating that, “You can’t give anyone asylum at another country’s embassy, that’s against international law. If he wants asylum, he has to come to Sweden.”
Riddselius stated that the justice department did everything possible to allow the questioning of Assange to take place and the matter was now “completely in Ecuador’s hands.” Assange remains holed up in the embassy, which is watched daily by UK police in one of the most expensive surveillance operations in the country’s history. It costs UK taxpayers $15 million per year to keep watch over Assange and the embassy.