Thursday, March 8, 2012
Interview originally aired on ABC RadioNational Breakfast, 9 March 2012 at 7:33AM.
Audio is available at the ABC website.
Fran Kelly: While no formal charges have been made, but Julian Assange has waged a year-long battle in Britain to avoid extradition to Sweden to be questioned by authorities about sexual assault allegations made by two women back in 2010. The WikiLeaks founder now awaits the judgement of the British Supreme Court to his appeal against a lower court’s decision to uphold the validity of the Swedish arrest warrant. Quite apart from concerns about how his case may be handled within Sweden, Julian Assange also fears extradition from Sweden to the United States. And giving credence to some of those concerns, late last month a confidential internal email from within the U.S. intelligence community revealed that American authorities have a sealed indictment of conspiracy charges waiting for Julian Assange. And the WikiLeaks founder joins you now from Britain: Julian Assange, good morning.
Julian Assange: Good morning, Fran.
Fran Kelly: Julian Assange, how soon do you expect that ruling from the Supreme Court to come down?
Julian Assange: It could come down any moment. The Supreme Court told us it would not come down before the 4th of March, and we’re already there, so any time this month we’re expecting the ruling.
Fran Kelly: And, if you lose what would happen? Will you be immediately detained and under what conditions? What do you know?
Julian Assange: If we lose then formally we have some seven days to file an appeal with the EU. However, the EU never issues injunctions in relation to inter-EU extraditions. It’s the view of the European Court of Human Rights: you can sort it out at the other end, given that you are already in the EU. So, essentially we have about ten days after the Supreme Court decision is made and then I will be seized and taken by force to Sweden. Now, that’s a situation which you would think wouldn’t be too concerning, given that no charges have been laid, and the sort-of investigation has already been dropped multiple times. But since the London Indepedent has revealed that the U.S. and Sweden have been in informal talks about onwards extradition since the 8th of December and recently we have seen this information about an indictment in the Grand Jury proceedings in Washington for espionage. And that, presumably, would then be activated in Sweden. It’s not to say that matters here in the UK are safe either, however. The UK/U.S. extradition treaty is quite favorable to the United States; it does not need to present evidence. So every day that it sort of ticks by here in the UK, we also run the risk that the U.S. warrant will be served on me in the UK.
Fran Kelly: Have you had any indication from authorities in the UK that there are negotiations or talks with the U.S. about that? Or that that is underway?
Julian Assange: None directly in relation to the UK. However, we have tried to get out information under the Freedom of Information Act within the UK and it has been blocked under the basis that it might interfere with the diplomatic relations of the UK and another nation. Normally that information should be revealed. There is information there. It is not being released under the basis that it has something to do with the UK’s international diplomacy.
Fran Kelly: So is this why you’re talking now? Are you afraid this might be one of the last chances before the Supreme Court rules and, as you say, you are seized and taken by force to Sweden?
Julian Assange: Well, it’s one of the reasons, but remember that the Australian Government really has failed to act here. But it hasn’t just failed to act for me, it has failed to act for WikiLeaks, the organization. WikiLeaks is an Australian organization, registered in Australia. It’s an organization that a lot of Australians have something to do with. It’s an organization that Australia—the Australian Government—should be proud of as an export industry. And the Australian Government is not just sort-of unconcerned about my fate, it is also unconcerned about the fate of other Australian journalists, such as Austin Mackell who is now trapped in Egypt with very little support from the Australian Government. And, why is that? It seem that the reason is that once politicians get to Canberra, they then essentially remove from the Australian community and they start to enter into a diplomatic community and start developing connections with persons in other countries around the world. And of course, the largest sort-of diplomatic power that Australia deals with is the United States. So, Australian politicians enter into developing a new form of patronage network that extends overseas into Washington. Many of these politicians have been good at sort-of rising up through the ranks of power, in Australia, by sucking up to the next most powerful person. And when they get to the height of Australian power they continue that same basic methodology into the United States. And that is why Australian politicians have not stood up for Australians in the past. And that’s why they’re not standing up for WikiLeaks and it’s why they’re also not standing up for Austin Mackell.
Fran Kelly: You’re listening to AM Breakfast. Our guest this morning is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He’s joining us from Britain where, as I say, he’s been for a long time now under essentially house arrest, waiting currently for a decision by the British Supreme Court on an extradition order to Sweden. Well, as you say, Australian politicians certainly haven’t been standing up for you. Some of them are concerned though, I mean they don’t agree with the action you and WikiLeaks have taken in leaking those cables.
Julian Assange: Well, some have actually stood up. And it’s very interesting to see who does and who doesn’t. For example, Malcolm Fraser has stood up, John Howard has stood up. So it’s those politicians who are in Canberra busy trying to keep their relationships going, trying to climb the ladders of power. Those who are already out of it, like Malcolm Fraser and John Howard, take a different approach. And similarly to other people in Australia. So we’ve had extensive support from Australian media and Australian lawyers. The Australian community is extremely supportive. It’s just not most politicians in Canberra. There are some notable exceptions; some Green politicians have really stood up for us over time.
Fran Kelly: Behind the scenes, as an Australian citizen, are you or any of your team in contact with the Australian Embassy officials? Are you getting any support from Australia and are you seeking it?
Julian Assange: Well look, frankly they’re almost completely useless. They say that they have provided us… had extensive contact with us, but every sort-of SMS or email about possibly meeting us, possibly sometime in the future, they list down in response to center questions about this subject as contact with us. There has been essentially… Well I mean, I don’t consider any of this support that the Foreign Ministry claims to have provided, apart from in one small area to be of significance. It’s certainly not the sort of thing that they’re claiming. I notice in the Austin Mackell case they’re saying they’re providing extensive higher-level consulate support, etc. But I know what this means. This just means a few sort of form letters that have gone from one place to another. It’s all about box-ticking. It’s not about doing anything, because to do something would interfere with the sort-of cocktail part circuit that these guys like to maintain themselves on going into the United States. It should be understood that, I mean the U.S.—certain sections of the U.S…. I mean, we do actually have over 40% support of the U.S. population. But certain sections of the United States are actively campaigning in Canberra. One week before Obama turned up, the U.S. Ambassador Jeff Bleich said to the Australian media in relation to my extradition, if I was to end up in Australia, Australia will have to reconsider its extradition obligations. And we get reports back from Canberra MPs that people from the U.S. Embassy have been lobbying them in relation to us. It’s simply unacceptable that we keep getting back these reports about U.S. lobbying against us in Canberra. Neither is acceptable.We have high-level journalists working for respected Australian media outlets having gone in to Canberra to visit the Prime Minister and visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, coming out and telling me personally, “Whatever you do, you must not go into custody. You must not.”
Fran Kelly: What do you want the Australian Government to do? Do you want them to say that if you came to Australia you would be safe from extradition? Is that what you want?
Julian Assange: The Australian Government should say to Sweden, that if I go to Sweden—should demand of Sweden—that if I go to Sweden, then I will immediately return to Australia following any sort of legal proceedings there. The big issue is whether there is some onwards extradition from Sweden. So far the Australian Government has refused to do that. In Sweden there is an extraordinary media climate that people should look into over the last week. This year alone, we have been—and myself personally—have been attacked by the Swedish Prime Minister, the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. There has been numerous front page stories attacking this organization, saying that this organization is planning to—has been, in fact—spying on all the editors in Sweden, that it plans to surround Swedish embassies, that it plans to drive a smear campaign on all of Sweden. That is what is in Sweden right now. That is front page news in Sweden. Those editors refuse to provide their sources, refuse to enter into debate on Swedish public TV, even though Swedish public TV has offered that. So there’s a sort of build-up campaign in Sweden right now for my onwards extradition. Sweden is not a country at the moment where one can feel at all comfortable about having either a fair trial, but more importantly, the political atmosphere in Sweden is developing such that politically it is possible for Sweden to re-extradite me to the United States. And that’s a fact and the Australian Government should be looking into that.
Fran Kelly: So basically, you’re thinking that all roads point to the U.S. Are you frightened of being sentenced to life in a U.S. jail? Is that what you’re frightened of?
Julian Assange: Well, we’ve seen this week the UN Rapporteur on Torture denounced the treatment of Bradley Manning, one of our alleged sources, who was held in solitary confinement for nine months straight. The United States Government has refused to cooperate under the UN torture mandate with the United Nations to investigate what has happened in that case. Bradley Manning’s lawyers say that Bradley Manning was treated that way in order to force him into a confession in relation to me. That’s the public record, that is what his lawyer is saying, that is what has come out in the pre-trial hearings in the United States. So, this is an embarrassed superpower and those elements of it will do everything possible to try and look like they still have still control, to try and look like they still have authority. The Pentagon stood up in a 40-minute press conference and demanded of me personally on international TV for 40 minutes that we must destroy all our previous work, we must destroy all our upcoming publications, and we must never deal with U.S. Military sources or whistleblowers again. And we negated those demands. We kept to our promises. We published everything that we said we were going to publish. And there were world-wide reforms and debates as a result, which is what this organization was started for. But that has humiliated certain sections of the United States Government and they are after revenge at any cost.
Fran Kelly: So, Julian Assange, it sounds as though you expect, or anticipate, you might lose this extradition order, you might end up in Sweden, and end up in the U.S. If you are suddenly taken away, if you are suddenly, as you say, seized and taken by force to Sweden, and we don’t hear from you again, or for a long time, what’s your message to supporters?
Julian Assange: My message is, you know, you can lock up a person, but the idea continues. We have had strong support from the Australian public and Australian media for which I personally and the organization is very thankful. And I’m certain that support will really ramp up in a significant way. Bob Carr has still yet to show his colors. He’s a strong character and a strong individual. He’s a historian and a journalist. So perhaps he will come out swinging for us. On the other hand, perhaps not. It is something I think that all Australians should be angry about. That I would say, don’t wait for me or someone else to be extradited. Y’know, to a degree everything’s too late by then. If people are going to stand up, they need to stand up now, to protect me, to protect our organization, to protect our work. We also have another forty or something supporters who are involved in various court cases, we have an extrajudicial banking blockade, and so on. The war on WikiLeaks is an all front, it is not just on me, but I am the most visible sort-of victim of it.
Fran Kelly: Julian Assange, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.
Julian Assange: Thank you, Fran.
Fran Kelly: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. And any day now he will get that judgement from the British Supreme Court on whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face questions on sexual assault charges.