This was originally posted on Huffington Post on December 15, 2010
Well, that didn't take long. Last week I blogged about concerns that "the U.S. government is likely manipulating the Swedish allegations [against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange] for purposes of extraditing Assange to the U.S." (I also wrote that the Center for Constitutional Rights believes the allegations should be investigated, and deplores the attacks against Assange's accusers.)
Just yesterday afternoon more of those concerns were realized when the New York Times reported the sudden appearance of a very significant fact on the Swedish Prosecution Authority's website: "Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor who asked British authorities to detain Mr. Assange and send him to Sweden for questioning about possible sex crimes, discussed the possibility of sending him to the United States."
Actually, what the legalese means is this: If anyone sends Assange to the U.S., it will have to be the UK who makes that call, not Sweden, even if he's in Swedish custody. Ny's statement is the first time a government official has gone on record to so much as broach this possibility. The closest thing prior to this were the "diplomatic sources" who told the UK's Independent last week that "informal discussions" on the topic were taking place between U.S. and Swedish officials.
CCR opposes extraditing Assange to the U.S. He's committed no crime. There's no legal basis whatsoever to prosecute a news organization, whether it's WikiLeaks or the New York Times, for receiving and publishing documents. and there's no legal daylight between WikiLeaks and the New York Times.
Sweden should have learned its lesson about handing over suspects to the U.S., and the human rights gap long ago. If Sweden hands Assange over to the U.S. -- yes, even if it brings him to Sweden for interrogation knowing that his extradition there will set the wheels turning for eventual extradition to the U.S. -- it will repeat the same mistake it made in 2001: that's when Sweden, responding to a request from the CIA, handed two terror suspects to U.S. operatives who flew them to Egypt, where they were tortured.
Not much better awaits Assange here. Despite being an investigative journalist, he will likely be held in prolonged solitary confinement under Special Administrative Measures that create severe health problems and do not comport with the European Union's views on humane treatment.
Finally, CCR opposes Assange's extradition to the U.S. and criminalization because we believe in the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate: a free press is one of the fundamental guarantors of democracy -- especially when it exposes systemic government cover-ups, wrongdoing, and human rights abuses.
Are the fears of CCR and our allies unfounded? That seemed to be what U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley was implying when he Tweeted last Wednesday, the same day as the Independent's story: "Conspiracy theorists are at it again. The U.S. is not pulling strings in the Assange case. This is between the UK and Sweden." Really, you should check it out. Except that Tweet disappeared from Crowley's Twitter feed sometime in the last 24 hours. Good thing I saved the link