Graphic for building support for Julian Assange & created by artist Somerset Bean

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange has been living in the Ecuador Embassy in the United Kingdom for two years. To mark the anniversary, his legal defense team is making a push to have the United Nations Human Rights Commission intervene in the case. His legal defense team is also planning to make a filing in Swedish courts next week that will contain new information.

Ecuador granted Assange political asylum because of the United States Justice Department’s ongoing national security investigation into WikiLeaks, which has involved a secret grand jury empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia. The grand jury has sought information on Assange, staffers, volunteers and others with ties to WikiLeaks. Assange’s fear is if he goes to Sweden he will be extradited to the United States. He faces sexual assault allegations but no charges.

On CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper,  Assange said, “I hope it will remove the arrest warrant, which has technically kept the matter going on for four years,” although he added, “it won’t permit me to leave the embassy because we still have the threat of extradition to the US from the UK.”
Fifty-nine international organizations, including the American Association of Jurists, the National Lawyers Guild, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), have signed on to reports submitted to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, which examines the human rights records of countries every four years. The reports use Assange as a case study to call attention to how Swedish prosecutors “routinely place suspects in lengthy, isolated or unexplained pre-charge detention” and how prosecutors will sometimes engage in pre-trial questioning and sometimes refuse to do so in other cases.

The organizations argue that Sweden has violated Assange’s human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

The English report indicates, “A well-functioning cooperation framework exists in the [European Union] for questioning suspects abroad. Questioning suspects abroad at the preliminary investigation phase is routine practice in most cases in Sweden. It has not depended on the gravity of the offense or similar criteria.”

Examples of cases are listed:

The Arboga murder case: Swedish police traveled to Germany to question a murder suspect in 2008. The suspect was subsequently put on trial and convicted in Sweden.

The Uppsala Christmas murder case: Swedish police traveled to Serbia to question a murder suspect in 2012. The suspect was subsequently charged and extradited to Sweden, where he was put on trial.

The G4S helicopter robbery case: A Swedish citizen named Alexander Eriksson was questioned by Swedish police in Serbia in 2010. That same year he was extradited, tried and convicted in Sweden.

The Trustor affair: UK citizen Jonathan Guinness (Lord Moyne) was accused of involvement of the disappearance of £50,000,00 from the accounts of the Swedish investment firm Trustor (of which he was director). An arrest warrant was issued in absentia, but it was dropped after Lord Moyne agreed to being questioned in the UK. The Swedish Prosecutor traveled to London to question him in 1997. He was put on trial in Sweden and acquitted in 2001.

The Prosolvia case: A major fraud case in which onfo the suspects, Dan Lejerskär, a cofounder of a company, was repeatedly questioned at the Swedish consulate in San Francisco by the prosecutor between 1998-2005 during the investigation phase. His defense lawyer was present. Lejerskär was tried and acquitted. [emphasis added]

There have been four “formal offers” made to the prosecution to “interview” Assange “in person, in writing, via telephone or via video-link.” But “all offers have been declined,” frustrating efforts by Assange to resolve the case.

Assange has also reiterated his call to the Justice Department to drop its investigation into his journalistic activities and the activities of his media organization.

“It’s not correct for Eric Holder and the DoJ to use weasel words and state that they will not prosecute a reporter for reporting,” Assange declared during a press call. “The dealing with sources, protecting them, enabling them to engage in a safe communication is a natural part of the national security reporting process.

“The DoJ’s weasel words in our analysis are designed to split off national security reporters from those reporters who simply report the contents of a press conference. National secrutiy reporters are required by their profession to have intimate interactions in order to assess and verify and investigate of the nature of the material that they are dealing with. So, I call on Eric Holder today to immediately drop the ongoing national security investigation against WikiLeaks or resign.”

During Assange’s second year in the embassy,  unnamed senior law enforcement sources made anonymous statements to the Washington Post multiple times about the possibility of prosecuting Assange. WikiLeaks responded, “The anonymous assertion that Julian Assange may not be indicted for publication of classified documents, even if true, only deals with a small part of the grand jury investigation. That investigation has been primarily concerned with trying to prove somehow that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were involved, not merely in publication, but in a conspiracy with their sources. There is also the question as to the status of the DoJ investigations into WikiLeaks involvement in the Stratfor and Snowden matters.”

There was confirmation of a criminal investigation in a lawsuit seeking records related to individuals targeted for surveillance on the basis of their support or interest in WikiLeaks. Justice Department lawyers argued records related to WikiLeaks must remain secret because the release may “cause articulable harm” to an ongoing Justice Department and FBI criminal investigation and “pending future prosecution.”

While Assange certainly does not like being confined in the embassy, he said, “The greatest concern for me is the intelligence gathering that the British police [are] doing on my visitors to the embassy, aggressively demanding their names and identity details,” as they come and go. The surveillance also makes it difficult to do his work since he deals with sensitive documents.

Nonetheless, on CNN, Assange announced that there would be a new WikiLeaks release of material tomorrow, which pertained to fifty countries. “Sixty-seven percent of global trade” is involved in these negotiations of which the documents are related.

The United Kingdom can now only extradite someone to another country if they face charges. So why isn’t Assange able to leave the embassy?

Michael Ratner, one of Julian Assange’s lawyers, said on “The Lead” that is legal defense team calls it the “Julian exception to the Assange law.”

“The law was passed to make extradition tougher. You can’t any longer use mere allegations as was done in Julian’s case. You actually need a decision to charge or charges. That hasn’t happened in Julian’s case. The reason we call it the exception is it’s not retroactive to Julian.” At least, the UK doesn’t think the law covers his case.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."