Lib Dem MPs join calls for Assange to face Swedish justice

The four Lib Dem women MPs this weekend signed a letter to the Home Secretary asking him to co-operate with the Swedish authorities should they seek to extradite Julian Assange to face extradition requests.

This is particularly important given that there is a statute of limitations on these allegations which expires next year.

From the BBC

In their letter to Sajid Javid, 70 parliamentarians – chiefly Labour MPs and peers – urged him to “stand with the victims of sexual violence” and ensure the rape claim against the Wikileaks founder could be “properly investigated”.

“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done,” the letter said.

I have very little sympathy for Assange generally. Using transparency as an excuse to put people in harm’s way, when a much more responsible approach could have highlighted the problem is just not acceptable as far as I am concerned.

I don’t agree with those, mainly on the left, who treat him as some sort of hero.

I think Dani Garavelli, as she often does, summed it up perfectly in today’s Scotland on Sunday.

Indeed, in the last few days, Assange has served as a useful barometer for a certain kind of misogyny. If your immediate response to his capture was to refer to him as “a political refugee protected by international law” – à la John Pilger – or to quote Orwell as saying: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act,” then you are most likely a brocialist happy to throw women under a bus in pursuit of your own agenda.

It was this issue, and Corbyn’s poor response to it, that finally led my friend Cat Headley to leave the Labour Party on Friday.

Cat was Alex Cole-Hamilton’s opponent in Edinburgh Western in 2016 and she is a brilliant advocate for social justice. Politics is so much poorer without her.

Labour needs to take a look at itself if it’s losing people of Cat’s calibre.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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17 Comments

  • David Warren 14th Apr '19 - 2:41pm

    Welcome to the party Cat.

    As far as Assange is concerned extradition to Sweden is the correct course of action, a point I made on an LBC phone in yesterday.

    Really pleased to see our MPs once again taking the right approach makes me proud that the Liberal Democrats are on the right side once again.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Apr '19 - 4:11pm

    I have little sympathy for Assange. Whilst I don’t think the US would give him a fair trial, Sweden will. If he isn’t guilty of the rape changes against him he will be found innocent. I can’t understand why a man who claims to be so in favour of openness should wish to avoid an open and fair court hearing in Sweden where he can prove his innocence, if he is being framed, as he claims.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr '19 - 4:38pm

    A real issue very sensible in the analysis by Caron, or comments made on Assange, as cannot comment on Cat, as do not know her, it has taken different issues to lead some to leave the awful state of the Labour party.

    I agree with the article, another supposed hero of the left or alt left, Assange is nothing but an ego , he discredited himself running from the very liberal UK courts, and not facing justice. He did endanger good hard working security staff, as well as a very partisan approach to political revelations one up barely on a tabloid rag.

    It is also very wrong to decry the US system but not the Swedish. The US, favour British justice, and trial by jury, why do people discredit twelve good men ad women and true, in America, when Sweden, favours trial by judges, much in the US justice needs improvement, fair trial for Assange as likely there in my view than anywhere.

  • As normally happens quite a lot of issues get mixed up. The Supreme Court said that he could lawfully be extradited from the UK to Sweden for these crimes – one of which is still within the Swedish statute of limitations. And of course, the British authorities would co-operate with any request for extradition correctly executed. It seems a little odd, therefore, why this letter to the Home Secretary is needed. It is of course a letter purporting to do one thing while trying to do others.

    The current issue is whether he should be extradited to the US for alleged crimes that are nothing to do with rape. I don’t think that it is fair to brand defenders of Assange as misogynists. You can debate what WikiLeaks does and how it does it but ultimately far far more harmful is if Governments are allowed to get away with their version of truth unfettered by whistle-blowers – just look at the Iraq war and the dodgy dossiers that justified it. And as Lib Dems, in general, we should be supporters of whistle-blowers however imperfectly it is done. And of course the first thing Governments do is run campaigns to try and discredit them.

    The claim from Assange – and whether or not you believe him or not is a different question from misogyny – was that if he was extradited to Sweden he could then be extradited to the US.

  • OnceALibDem 14th Apr '19 - 6:49pm

    “It seems a little odd, therefore, why this letter to the Home Secretary is needed. It is of course a letter purporting to do one thing while trying to do others. ”

    Because AIUI where there are two extradition requests the decision which takes priority is the Home Secretary’s

  • @OnceALibDem

    That is a valid point which actually is not made in the letter but is made in the BBC report on it. There isn’t of course a current extradition request in from Sweden as they dropped it.

    It is therefore a little over the top to accuse defenders of Assange of misogyny or as the Scotsman article does to attack Corbyn and the Labour frontbench of it – Corbyn has specifically said that his grip is against extradition to America and Assange should answer for the allegations in Sweden.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47917325

    Clearly Assange is no saint and when allegation of abuse against women are made they should be answered BUT as Lib Dems we should be on our guard when whistle-blowers are demonised as they are also important to protect against death and abuse.

  • Assange and wikileaks didn’t steal anything from the US. They acted as journalists reporting information received from a whistleblower that exposed US Government lies and disinformation relating to the killing of civilians.

    Chelsea Manning already served a long prison sentence for her part in this. If we want journalists to be able to hold Governments to account, extradition to the US must be resisted.

    Of course extradite to Sweden if they re-submit the request.

  • John Marriott 14th Apr '19 - 8:29pm

    First of all it depends on whether Sweden still wants him. So far, we don’t know, do we? Secondly, who is going to pay the bill for his voluntary incarceration in the Embassy? Thirdly, how will Trump react, given that he used to be a fan of Wikileaks? ‘Michael 1’ reckons that Assange “is no saint”. That’s rather an understatement, isn’t it?

  • Paul Reynolds 15th Apr '19 - 8:30am

    Whatever one’s emotional response to the rape accusations and to the accusations of the US authorities against the Australian Julian Assange it is essential that Lib Dems adhere to the fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. In both cases Liberal Democrats should remember how important the rule of law is, and not provide fuel to those who may wish in the future to accuse us of hypocrisy.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Apr '19 - 9:02am

    What is our current definition of a “Saint”?
    How do Mr Clinton and Mr Trump rate in “Saintliness” in comparison with Mr Assange?
    Do we believe that the protections offered by the law are only for “Saints”?

  • John Marriott 15th Apr '19 - 9:24am

    @Steve Trevethan
    Clinton faced Impeachment and got off. Trump shows no sign of seeking refuge in some foreign Embassy in the event of his possibly being indicted. If Assange reckons he’s innocent, why did he hide himself away for seven years? He needs to man up, like Mr now Ms Manning (possibly an inappropriate verb given the circumstances). I bet Hillary isn’t losing much sleep over his fate, given what the Wikileaks revelations did for her election chances.

    I’m sure that ‘Michael 1’, from whom the phrase originated, will send you a more considered reply.

  • @John Marriott @Steve Trevethan

    I am a little confused by your discussion. My point is that Assange probably has some character faults from what has been written about him. I fear that the tactic of those opposed to him is to demonise him as much as possible. And it becomes difficult to defend him because of his alleged offences against women and those that do are then themselves demonised as misogynists.

    But we need people like him to be and facilitate whistle-blowers and people to defend them. And we will rely on flawed people as we all are deeply flawed to do this work. But if this work is not done – by flawed people – we get things like the Iraq war where we kill thousands upon thousands of people unnecessarily on a flawed prospectus.

    Clearly it was a stitch up between the Ecuadorian, British and US governments. Reuters reported on 2nd April that the Ecuadorian President said that Assange had violated the terms of his asylum in the embassy after “after private photographs of [the president] and his family at a time years ago when they were living in Europe circulated on social media.” and its Government blamed WikiLeaks for that.

    Manning was sentenced to 35 years – commuted to 7 by Obama. I am not an expert on US law but Assange may well potentially face a substantial sentence in the US – although it seems (and a grand jury is investigating WikiLeaks at the moment), he would face lesser charges.

    My suspicion as Stella Creasy is not Corbyn’s biggest fan this was mainly an attempt to get at him. I am not sure whether the Home Secretary has a big role in deciding whether to extradite him to Sweden or the US – from what was said on the Marr programme it is down to the courts to choose and of course he potentially faces extradition to the US if in Sweden.

    Nazi Germany is being discussed in another thread and of course analogies with it are over-used. But there grew up then a “political correctness” that was used to vilify those that spoke out against Hitler and in defence of Jews and others as “un-German”. While it is important that abuse against women is taken seriously we should at least be on our guard that people are able to defend flawed individuals in this country as we depend on them for our safety.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Apr '19 - 8:05pm

    Thank you, Michael 1, for your excellent contribution to the discussion!
    Everyone has character faults, real and projected by others. Being hunted by the deep elites of the UK and the U.S might well encourage unsocial behaviours, if only for self preservation.
    How many deaths and tortures have resulted from Mr Assange’s behaviours? How many from those of Mr Blair And Mr Bush?
    Perhaps Mr Assange is being thus prosecuted to inhibit others for speaking truth to power?

  • John Marriott 15th Apr '19 - 8:08pm

    @Michael 1
    “Confused”? You? I wouldn’t want Assange blowing my whistle, thank you very much. A “stitch up”? Another conspiracy theory? Here’s another one for you. How come Wikileaks never appears to leak anything about Russia or China? It’s no different from the ‘Stop the War’ Campaign – just the wicked West is targeted and atrocities committed elsewhere by totalitarian regimes largely ignored. Depending on ‘flawed individuals.. our safety’? A dangerous logic to my mind.

  • @Steve Trevethan

    Thanks for your kind words. I find it somewhat difficult to comment in the way I did – even within a liberal environment such as LDV so your support and comments are appreciated! Thanks!

    @John Marriott

    Thanks for your further comment. The point is you can’t choose who you will have to rely on. And we rely on brave, courageous, innovative people to do things to improve society – and yes I see WikiLeaks in that light – and take action to help people rather than passing by on the other side and often they get a lot of verbal abuse, harassment (sometimes from Governments) and worse! To put their heads above the parapet they may have to be “non-standard” some may say flawed individuals. But free speech is such an important good for society to prevent millions of deaths.

    Obviously WikiLeaks does not do the whistle blowing itself but is a repository for it. And obviously that is sadly much easier to do in Western societies than in countries such as Russia and China. And it may be Russian and Chinese governments, some of the times, doing the hacking and depositing things in WikiLeaks. But I can cope with that – I am an adult and can cope with and evaluate multiple sources of information – and that is how citizens should be treated – not to be “protected” from anything that suggests our lords and masters are anything other than wonderful, brilliant, wise people doing wonderful, brilliant wise things.

    I can, surprise, surprise manage to simultaneously hold both the thought that other Governments act worse than “our” Western governments and we don’t hear about it because of their greater totalitarianism and also our governments have not acted well in specific instances. I am of course more concerned about the British government because it is the one I elect and I would hope that it and other Western governments have higher standards.

    On the events surrounding Assange. I would venture that it is not that great a flight of fancy to suggest given Assange was arrested the MOMENT his asylum was revoked and the police were invited into the Embassy that the British authorities had been told about it. Clearly we don’t know what happened between the Ecuadorian and American governments but it did come on the day a grand jury indictment against Assange was unsealed and amid reports that the Ecuadorian Government have been trying to improve relations with America.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Apr '19 - 9:16am

    John Marriott 14th Apr ’19 – 8:29pm
    “who is going to pay the bill for his voluntary incarceration in the Embassy?”
    The UNHCR provides guidance on the 1951 refugee convention, which is provided to asylum caseworkers and presenting officers at appeals. The relevant footnote is about regional variations in the right to claim asylum in South America. Although the previous President of Ecuador accepted Assange’s claim and granted it he was actually in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom. The UK did not try to evict him at that stage.
    Ecuador has a history of generosity to asylum seekers, not including paying for food or housing, mostly from South Americans. The State Department provides free internet reports on all countries in the world (except USA itself, but Canada does).
    Some claimants try their luck in several countries, known as asylum shopping, but previous refusals by safe countries are recorded in their immigration histories.
    https://www.unhcr.org/1951-refugee-convention.html
    It follows that the millions of pounds spent by the Metropolitan police may have been spent in order to avoid a diplomatic incident with Ecuador, a political decision.
    All EU member states are required to implement the 1951 convention in full as part of the joining process. Sweden generosity has been well above average.

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