US and Sweden: Informal Talks about Assange Extradition to US since December 2010
The UK newspaper The Independent (08 December 2010) reported that Sweden and the United States were holding informal negotiations about Assange’s onward extradition. The news was picked up by the Swedish tabloid Expressen.
Sweden: Political Interference by the Swedish Prime Minister
Swedish Prime Minister interferes in Assange case with fresh attacks on Assange – 25 January 2012
This is typical of someone accused [’anklagad’] of a crime in a different country – to try to cast suspicion on that country or its legal system. One can see similarities with other cases where this technique has been used. Of course we have to stand our ground – we have a system of rule of law that works. And we take rape accusations very seriously – there are special interests trying to disparage how we have developed and how we stand by the good legislation [that is relevant] in this [Assange] case. – full transcript below.
Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, talks about the Assange case on Swedish national radio on 25 January 2012 – only one week before Assange’s team will argue that the European Arrest Warrant has not been subjected to scrutiny by an independent and impartial ’judicial authority’, before the UK Supreme Court.
Swedish Prime Minister attacks Assange on National Radio, one week before Supreme Court hearing
The following transcript is from the call-in programme Studio Ett (25 January 2012) where the question related to Julian Assange’s case and US extradition is asked to Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (FR) by the caller, author Carina Rydberg (CR). The host is Anders Holmberg (AH):
AH: And now we have Carina Rydberg from Stockholm. Hello!
CR: Hello hello!
AH: This is the author Carina Rydberg as I believe?
CR: It is! That’s who you’re talking to! And we’ll keep things international here. It’s started well. Because I thought I’d ask the prime minister: Julian Assange – you’ve heard of him?
FR: Oh yes.
CR: He will be heard again in a few days’ time at the Supreme Court in the UK, about whether he is to be surrendered to Sweden or not due to allegations of sexual offences. And what is spreading in the international media, recently in Rolling Stone in the US but also earlier in Le Monde, that if Julian Assange is handed over to Sweden he will immediately and without any judicial scrutiny whatsoever be extradited to the US if that country wants him – due to some kind of overly generous extradition agreement.
AH: What is your question Carina Rydberg?
CR: My question is what comments the Prime Minister has in relation to these claims that are circulating?
FR: Well hello Carina. Anyone who has followed this issue is aware that it is an extremely sensitive issue, so I can’t make any comments on a specific case. Furthermore the international press is using, as you have also pointed out, a specific lens that suggests that the Swedish judicial system is entangled with political decision-makers. And I have had to clarify that this is not the case. Extradition procedures are built on judicial systems talking to each other according to a set of rules, and it is applicable in this case, so it is appropriate for me in this case not to try to assess or speculate about how things might unfold.
CR: So what you mean is that if the US requests Assange’s extradition, the matter will go through the Swedish judicial system, for example the Supreme Court, ummm but not, it won’t be like what happened to those two Egyptians a few years ago [Carina Rydberg is referring to the case of extraordinary rendition of two Egyptian refugees in Sweden known as Agiza v. Sweden at the UN Committee Against Torture]. Because that is what is being suggested: there is no real system of rule of law in this country. Abroad we appear as some kind of, umm well, a Scandinavian, US-friendly version of North Korea. I find it upsetting!
FR: Umm yes. I also want to point out that it is also partly based on the fact that there has been an attempt to cast doubt on Sweden’s rape legislation. So… there are arguments being made that distinguish Sweden’s judicial system from other countries’, and some try to use that as a basis to cast doubt on Sweden. We stand by our system because we have a functioning system of rule of law where we have a good system for handling such extradition requests. I think in the case of Egypt – that was rather unique in its character and it has been discussed on many occasions umm about Sweden’s role in the affair, and there has also been criticism of Sweden. But in this [Assange’s] case it is once again legal systems that are talking to one another, there are rules that exist and must be observed, and political decision-makers should not make public statements about it or try to speculate about how it will be handled.
AH: Is it a problem for you – one moment, Carina Rydberg – is it a problem for you [Prime Minister] Fredrik Reinfeldt or for Sweden that there are these kinds of descriptions of Sweden as a banana republic as far as the law is concerned in the international press?
FR: Well. This is typical of someone accused [’anklagad’] of a crime in a different country – to try to cast suspicion on that country or its legal system. One can see similarities with other cases where this technique has been used. Of course we have to stand our ground – we have a system of rule of law that works. And we take rape accusations very seriously – there are special interests trying to disparage how we have developed and how we stand by the good legislation [that is relevant] in this [Assange] case. – Swedish transcript is at the bottom of the page. See US Extradition for analysis of the Swedish Prime Minister’s statements in the context of other recent statements to the press by Sweden’s Prosecutor General.
Despite this clearly impinging on Julian Assange’s due process rights the prosecutor (Marianne Ny), the Prime Minister (Fredrik Reinfeldt) and the politician-lawyer who represents the women (Claes Borgstrom) have attacked Julian Assange in the media over the past 15 months. Basic inalienable rights to due process, enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and the EU Charter, are not being respected when the chief of the Swedish executive and other members of the executive publicly commenting on the Assange matter.
Previous Statements by representatives of the Swedish Executive
Both Fredrik Reinfeldt, Swedish Prime Minister, and Anders Perklev, prosecutor general, have directly prejudiced Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in the UK by making negative and misleading public statements about Assange and his legal team, further contributing to the toxic environment in Sweden. Reinfeldt’s statements came hours after Julian Assange’s lawyers publicly challenged the Swedish prosecutor to be cross-examined in the English Courts, on the second day of the hearing on 8 February 2011.
The Swedish prime minister’s comments were extraordinary and exceptional. In this country the matter would have been dropped as a result. In any decent country the rule of law is separated from the political process. In Sweden it appears not. – Mark Stevens
In a parliamentary address the prime minister said that “we do not accept sexual abuse or rape” and said that Assange and his lawyers had little regard for women’s rights.
Reinfeldt incorrectly stated to national Swedish radio that Assange had been charged for rape in Sweden. He also stated ’we do not accept rape [in Sweden]’. His statement was quickly ’corrected’ through redactions, so the original quote is difficult to find on the internet. This page has a screenshot of the original publication with the ’indictment’ claim.
Despite the outcry by Assange’s lawyers over Reinfeldt’s comments, and the district judge’s own admission that it was inappropriate of the Prime Minister to comment on the case, Reinfeldt spoke publicly about the case again, this time to the press (Hamburger Abendblatt) on 2 March 2011.
Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s public statements on the case not only impact the Media climate in Sweden, but are contrary to the Swedish Constitution (Chapter 12, paragraph 2). The columnist and writer Jan Myrdal called for the Prime Minister’s unlawful intervention to be raised at the Constitutional Committee.
Anders Hellner, a senior policy advisor at the Swedish Foreign Policy Institute, stated in an interview for Swedish Television’s news Rapport (18 August 2010): “The situation is escalating because an official Swedish party which is represented at the European Parliament [the Pirate Party, which had announced that it would host WikiLeaks servers] is taking on what the United States views as a very controversial role. The Americans are looking to stop this somehow, and it might come to a point where there will be an outright disagreement, and in the worse case that will dampen relations [between the US and Sweden] in general.”
Swedish speakers can listen to the Prime Minister’s answers in the radio call-in programme:
It is well-established in extradition cases that it is very difficult for an individual to prove that a state is requesting extradition for political purposes.
Interview with Paul Craig Roberts, columnist and former Reagan administration official
In the current EAW system the courts have very limited scope to take into account the risks that an extradition request may be serving political interests rather than being in the interests of justice, especially with negotiations being underway through unofficial channels.
Assange arrived in Sweden in August 2010, less than a month after WikiLeaks had leaked the Afghanistan War Logs and a month before the Swedish general elections.
WikiLeaks had announced that it had more leaks of a similar scale in the pipeline.
Sweden issued an INTERPOL Red Notice on 20 November for Julian Assange. It was authorised on 30 November.
The Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, El País, Le Monde and WikiLeaks began publishing diplomatic cables on 28 November 2010.
Two days later, Republicans in the US made a concerted call to the Obama administration to act as if it were at war against ’WikiLeaks terrorists’ (30 November), and called for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks staff to be assassinated, kidnapped or harmed.
Sweden issued an EAW on 26 November 2010, two days before WikiLeaks started publishing the US diplomatic cables (28 November). Under normal circumstances the EAW would lead to the surrender of the ’accused’ within ten days of the executing state’s consent. This EAW was invalidated and was then re-issued on 2 December 2010.
Pressure was mounting back in the US to ’kill Assange’. The period of the most heated vitriol on US and Canadian television coincided with the issuing of both EAWs, the INTERPOL Red Notice, and the release of the US diplomatic cables (see Timing: EAW & INTERPOL Red Notice ).
Pressure by the Obama administration on Visa, PayPal and MasterCard led to an unlawful banking blockade on WikiLeaks, blocking the organisation from receiving donations, which led to a 95% reduction in revenue for the organisation.
2010: US Surveillance in Sweden
’The Ultimate Treason’- Swedish – Dennis Töllborg
US-Sweden relations – in their own words
The diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Sweden released by WikiLeaks describe relations between the two countries:
”Both Bildt and Reinfeldt have strong interests in working closely with us… Bilateral relations are very close and collaborative, and you will find good partners in FM Carl Bildt and his team” (09STOCKHOLM266 and 09STOCKHOLM384)
Karl Rove is an adviser to the Swedish Prime Minister. Rove had a notorious public history as a ruthless senior White House official. For example he was allegedly implicated in the Bush White House’s career destruction of ’outed’ CIA agent Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband Joe Wilson – Tony Kevin, retired Australian diplomat
”For many European observers, [Bildt] is seen as too close to the British and the Americans to get full French or German backing to replace Solana in the High Representative role.” ([09STOCKHOLM266)
"The Ambassador has cultivated a close working relationship with [Defence Minister] Tolgfors… Tolgfors went to high school in the U.S. and told the Ambassador he loves the U.S.” (09STOCKHOLM272)
Some of the cables released by WikiLeaks also reveal that secret arrangements between the US and Sweden are entered to bypass democratic processes. Sweden secretly agreed to allowing the US to access large amounts of data on Swedish citizens because doing so formally would involve the constitutional requirement of parliamentary scrutiny. The Ministry of Justice considered that the ’public spotlight would place other existing informal information sharing arrangements at jeopardy’ (08STOCKHOLM748->http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/11/…]); would open the government to domestic criticism; and would reveal “the extent of this cooperation [which] is not widely known within the Swedish government” (07STOCKHOLM506->http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/05/…).
A top Swedish prosecutor, Tomas Lindstrand, launched a probe in December 2010 into the activities of the US embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) to determine if it was illegal (English and Swedish). The probe was announced two days after Justice Minister Beatrice Ask declared that the US embassy in Stockholm had secretly spied on Swedish residents in the capital since 2000. The probe was canceled by the Constitutional Committee in April 2011.
Sweden also passed a controversial surveillance law (FRA-lagen) after intense lobbying from the US. The law met strong opposition domestically. It allowed Sweden to give unfiltered data of ordinary citizens to the US, and perhaps to other countries. Member of parliament Camilla Lindberg resigned in protest. In her opinion piece she wrote that the government used lies, pleadings and harassment to get parliamentary approval: “by selling out its own people, the government has sought to curry the favour of the United States… Little by little, we continue to dismantle democracy.”
Another embassy cable (09STOCKHOLM141) revealed a six-step action plan by the US for Sweden to enact data retention legislation (IPRED) and copyright infringement laws. See this news item about the cable with English subtitles. IPRED is the driving force behind “step two of the data retention” (polismetodutredningen, PMU), which is currently under discussion.
The US has also lobbied for greater internet restrictions. On 29 April Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted that Sweden had entered an alliance on internet freedom, after meeting with Hillary Clinton in Washington.
Carl Bildt, the current Foreign Minister, was the co-chair of the European Branch of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. The lobby group had close ties to the White House. The head of the committee credited Bildt: it “played a decisive role in building a coalition against Saddam Hussein… Someone of Carl’s stature, with his background – and from Sweden to boot – was of course very important. Thanks to his personal network and his endorsement, we were able to recruit several other [collaborators].”
Further reading on politics of the Assange case:
- Gender politics and the Assange case: Gender Politics.
- Lay Judges: Party politics and the court Lay Judges
Ex-editor of the Wall Street Journal on Assange’s likelihood to be extradited from Sweden
Justice Integrity Project, Rights Activist Challenges Ethics of Swedish Courts, Media, Andrew Kreig, March 6, 2011
Justice Integrity Project, Critic Slams Swedish Media for Anti-Assange Bias, Andrew Kreig, April 18, 2011
Connecticut Watchdog, Spy vs. Spy As Hackers Square Off Over DC Dirty Tricks, also published in the Huffington Post Andrew Kreig, Feb. 16, 2011
Justice Integrity Project, Rove’s Swedish Connections: The Controversy And The Facts, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 14, 2011.
Professors Blogg (Sweden), Karl Rove’s Swedish Connections: The Controversy And The Facts, Andrew Kreig (Blog edited by Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli), Feb. 13, 2011.
Justice Integrity Project, Plot Against Bloggers, Rights Activists Exposed, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 11, 2011.
Makthavare (Sweden, Those in Power), Naomi Wolf: Karl Rove works for the Conservatives, Andreas Hendriksson, Feb. 11, 2011. (Google Translation).
Professors Blogg, Karl Rove, Sweden and the Eight Major Aberrations in the Police Sex Crime Reporting Process in the Assange Case, Naomi Wolf, Feb. 9, 2011
Justice Integrity Project, Critics Probe WikiLeaks, CIA; Tie Uprisings To Food, Security, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 9, 2011.
Swedish Wire, Karl Rove key player in Swedish WikiLeaks probe, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 24, 2011.
Swedish Wire, Partner at Swedish law firm counseling WikiLeaks boss’ accusers helped in CIA torture rendition, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2011.
Huffington Post Rove Suspected In Swedish-U.S. Political Prosecution of WikiLeaks, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 19, 2010.
OpEd News Partner at Firm Counseling Assange’s Accusers Helped the CIA In Rendition for Torture, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 12, 2011
Justice Integrity Project, PM’s Biographer Sees Rove Influence in Swedish Politics, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 17, 2011
Anonymous Operation Want’s Blog – Sweden’s Big Trade Deal for Assange: Who profits the most?
Other related sections:
Transcript from Swedish call-in radio program with Swedish Prime Minister, 25 January 2012: http://sverigesradio.se/topsy/ljudf…
AH: … med oss Carina Rydberg Stockholm hallå!
CR: Hallå hallå!
AH: Det är författaren Carina Rydberg tror jag?
CR: Det är det. Det är den som du pratar med. Och vi håller oss internationellt här! Det har börjat bra. För jag tänkte fråga statsministern: Julian Assange har du hört talats om.
CR: Han kommer nu inom några dagar, det kommer att prövas igen i brittiska högsta domstolen, huruvida han ska överlämnas till Sverige eller inte på grund av anklagelser om sexbrott. Och då sägs det i internationella media, vitt och brett, senaste i Rolling Stone i USA men tidigare i franska le Monde, att om Julian Assange överlämnas till Sverige så kommer han omedelbart och utan någon som helst rättslig prövning att utlämnas till USA om landet så önskar på grund av något slags extra-generöst utlämningsavtal…
MC: Vad var din fråga Carina Rydberg?
CR: Min fråga är vad har statsministern för kommentar till denna, till dessa uppgifterna som florerar här?
FR: Jo hej Carina. Den som har följt frågan vet att det är utomordentligt känsligt för mig att uttala mig kring detta i enskilt fall, dessutom används ju internationellt media, vilket du också påpekar, någon sorts synsätt att man försöka hävda att det svenska rättssystemet är sammanblandat med politiska beslutsfattare. Och då har jag varit med om att tydliggöra att så är det inte. Utan utlämningsärenden bygger på rättssystem som talar med varandra utifrån särskilda regler, och det skulle i så fall vara tillämpbart också i det här fallet och det ska jag inte försöka bedöma eller spekulera kring hur det kan falla ut.
CR: Men vad du menar då är alltså att om USA begär Assange utelämnad så kommer det att gå via det svenska rättssystemet, exempelvis HD, eh men inte, det kommer inte att gå som med de där två egyptierna för några år sen. För det är det man vill hävda. Det finns inget regerande rättssystem i det här landet. Vi framstår i internationella ögon som nån sorts, alltså eh, Skandinaviens svar på Nordkorea i USA-vänlig tappning. Det tycker jag är upprörande!
FR: Eh jo. Jag vill också påpeka det är delvis också grundat i att man har försökt misstänkliggöra hur den svenska våldtäktslagstiftningen ser ut. Så att… det finns absolut diskussioner där vid Sverige rättsligt möjligen kan liksom skilja från andra, och man försöka använda det som grund för att misstänkliggöra Sverige. Vi står ju för att vi har en fungerande rättsstat där vi god ordning kring hur sådana här utlämningsärenden ska hanteras. Jag tycker detta fall kring Egypten i så fall är snarare speciellt i sin karaktär och det har också omdiskuterats vid många tillfällen eh Sveriges roll kring detta och också varit kritik mot det. Men i det här fallet återigen det är rättssystem som talar med varandra, det är regelsystem som finns och som måste efterlevas, och det ska inte politiska beslutsfattare uttrycka sig kring eller försöka spekulera hur det kan sköta sig.
AH: Är det ett problem för dig – ett ögonblick Carina Rydberg – är det ett problem för dig Fredrik Reinfeldt eller för Sverige att det förekommer den här typen av beskrivningar av Sverige som en juridisk bananrepublik i internationell press?
FR: Nja. Det är ju väldigt ofta en metod man använder, att försöka misstänkliggöra ett land eller ett helt rättssystem när man har, så att säga, står anklagad för ett brott i ett annat land. Det finns tyvärr likheter också vid andra tillfällen då den här tekniken har använts. Vi måste naturligtvis stå upp för att vi har en fungerande rättsstat och också vi tar mycket allvarligt på anklagelser som handlar om våldtäkt för det finns också inslag av att försöka förminska hur vi har utvecklats och står för en bra svensk lagstiftning i det här fallet.