In a blow for activist Julian Assange, a Swedish appeals court ruled that the arrest warrant, which would see Assange extradited back to Sweden, will be upheld. This will be the eighth time that the Swedish courts have chosen to uphold Assange’s warrant.
The arrest warrants were issued in 2010 and are related to charges of rape and molestation, which Julian Assange allegedly committed against two women. After a British court ruled in favor of extraditing Julian to Sweden in 2012, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador gave him political asylum, and Assange has lived in the embassy ever since.
The Swedish court also rejected a U.N. panel’s declaration which stated that Julian Assange was being “arbitrarily detained” and noted that the declaration was non-binding.
Julian claims that he is innocent of the rape charges, but believes that if he were to be extradited to Sweden, the Swedish government would extradite him to the United States to answer espionage charges relating to his role with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks stated on Twitter, in response to the recent ruling, that “Sweden has a long history of compromising its rule of law where the perceived interests of the United States are concerned.”
Sweden has denied that it would extradite Assange to the United States and is attempting to move the case forward, despite Julian Assange’s absence. An Ecuadorean prosecutor will interrogate Assange about the charges in the embassy in October, a move which Swedish prosecutor had rejected in the past.
Continued controversy around WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks and Assange have been a consistent source of debate among the public and the political class. Supporters view WikiLeaks as a heroic group exposing the double-dealings and shadiness of political bureaucrats around the world, while opponents see an organization which recklessly exposes important diplomatic secrets that puts lives and national security at risk.
But controversy around the group has intensified in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. elections, as WikiLeaks has repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton and propped up Donald Trump. Assange accused the American media of supporting Clinton a few weeks ago, and called her a “demon” who would smother the free press.
As a result of WikiLeaks’ support for Trump, some analysts wondered about a connection between the human rights group supposedly advocating for transparency and the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin. Trump has been incredibly friendly towards Russia throughout his entire campaign, and WikiLeaks has repeatedly leaked documents which harm the Western world at the benefit of Russia. Assange also hosted a series of broadcasts for Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today.
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have denied that they are working together with the Russian government and have criticized American fears of Russian aggression as “neo-McCarthyite hysteria.” Assange also has dismissed claims that he is pro-Trump, and WikiLeaks has put a reward for information relating to both presidential candidates.
For now, there is the matter of Julian’s next legal move. Assange has already seen lesser charges of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion dropped last year after the statute of limitations expired. If Assange is not indicted by 2020, then he would end up seeing all charges dropped as well. However, Assange apparently intends to appeal his arrest warrant again to the Swedish Supreme Court.
Julian Assange also indicated, after learning of the court’s decision, that he would be willing to serve time in a U.S. prison if President Obama would commute the sentence of former Army private Chelsea Manning, though he did state that any sentence he received would be unjust. Manning is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for releasing a massive amount of documents to WikiLeaks. She has been placed in solitary confinement after reportedly attempting suicide in July.
[Featured Image By Carl Court/Getty Images]