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Why doesn't Sweden interview Assange in London?

That is the question repeatedly asked by supporters of Assange. In this post I am just going to address that one question.

byAnya3 Likes12,800 Views

  1. Let's take those arguments one at a time.
  2. (1)  Assange has not been charged with any offence 
  3. Correct - if by charge you mean formally indicted.  In the Swedish system, formal indictment takes place at a very late stage in proceedings, following a second and final interview with the suspect, and in the case of a person in pre-trial detention, trial must follow within two weeks.  (As Assange is very unlikely to get bail again, for obvious reasons, it must be assumed that this would apply in his case).
  4. However, the High Court has held that Assange does stand "accused" of the four offences (including rape) for which his extradition is sought.   It is a requirement of the Extradition Act 2003 that the warrant contains a statement that the person in respect of whom extradition is sought stand "accused" of the offence(s) set out in the warrant.  There is no doubt that the European Arrest Warrant issued in Sweden did contain such a statement.  
  5. Assange sought to argue, first in the Magistrates Court, then in the High Court, that it is not enough that the statement is made, but the statement must also be true; and that he has not in fact been accused of any offence in Sweden because he had not been formally charged and so criminal proceedings had not yet commenced.  He lost that argument.  For full details, see the judgment in the High Court, especially paragraphs 128-154 which deal with Issue 3, Was Mr Assange accused of an offence in Sweden?
  6. At para.154 the High Court concludes:
  7. "Although it is clear a decision has not been taken to charge him, that is because, under Swedish procedure, that decision is taken at a late stage with the trial following quickly thereafter.  In England and Wales, a decision to charge is taken at a very early stage; there can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced.  If the commencement of criminal proceedings were to be viewed as dependent on whether a person had been charged, it would be to look at Swedish procedure through the narrowest of common law eyes.  Looking at it through cosmopolitan eyes on this basis, criminal proceedings have commenced against Mr Assange."
  8. Therefore, Assange lost on this issue.  There was no appeal on this issue to the Supreme Court.  

  9. (2)  Assange is ONLY wanted for questioning at this stage
  10. This is not true and was not even argued on Assange's behalf in the High Court.
  11. It is a requirement of s.2 Extradition Act that "the warrant is issued with a view to his arrest and extradition ... for the purpose of being prosecuted for the offence."  As the High Court notes at para.129 of its judgment, "It was common ground that extradition is not permitted for investigation or gathering evidence or questioning to see if the requested person should be prosecuted."  So if the UK courts accepted that Assange was only wanted for questioning, they would not have ordered his extradition. 
  12. Assange did argue in the Magistrates Court that the warrant had been issued for the purpose of questioning rather than prosecuting him.  In response to that argument, the Prosecutor, Marianne Ny, provided a statement dated 11 February 2011 explaining the Swedish procedure.  (The High Court quotes from this statement at para.142 of its judgment.)  She concluded as follows:
  13. "Subject to any matters said by him [in the second interview] which undermine my present view that he should be indicted, an indictment will be lodged with the court thereafter. It can therefore be seen that Assange is sought for the purpose of conducting criminal proceedings and that he is not sought merely to assist with our enquiries."
  14. The Senior District Judge found against Assange on this point and Assange did not pursue it in the High Court.  This can be seen at para.131 of the High Court judgment:
  15. "It was accepted in oral submissions made on behalf of Mr Assange that the surrender of Mr Assange was sought for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution (satisfying 2(3)(b)), as the Senior District Judge had held.  That concession was made because it was accepted that the words 'for the purposes of being prosecuted' were broad enough to encompass a prosecution that would commence in the future."
  16. Rather, it was argued that as an additional safeguard the proceedings must already have commenced. Assange lost on that point.  At para.136 of the High Court judgment:
  17. "The court should, in our view, be very careful in the context of the 2003 Act and the Framework Decision about giving to the word "accused" some technical procedural meaning which would amount to a hurdle which other Member States cannot match in their own procedures."

  18. Again, there was no appeal on this issue to the Supreme Court.  

  19. (3)  Sweden recently interviewed a murder suspect in Serbia; why can't Assange be interviewed in London?
  20. This argument was not even raised in the court proceedings, but it has been doing the rounds on Twitter recently.  Here's the newspaper report that is commonly linked to.  (It is in Swedish but you can use Google translate if you want a rough idea of what it says in English.)