Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK should resist the US’s extradition warrant for Julian Assange because, as Corbyn explained, Assange’s charge of conspiring to hack into a government computer stems from efforts to expose government malfeasance in the Middle East – and that the UK shouldn’t be a party to punishing those who try to hold the Americans accountable.
However, another faction in Parliament opposes handing Assange over to the US for a different reason: According to the FT, a bipartisan group of some 70 MPs wants to prioritize Assange’s extradition to Sweden, arguing that delivering justice to purported victims of sexual violence.
The UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid is facing calls from more than 70 MPs to prioritise Julian Assange’s potential extradition to Sweden, where he could face an investigation concerning allegations of rape.
In their letter to Mr Javid, MPs urged the minister to “stand with the victims of sexual violence”. The letter, which is signed by a cross-party coalition of MPs, said: “We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done.”
“We urge you both to confirm that you will give every assistance to Sweden should they want to revive and pursue the investigation. We must send a strong message of the priority the UK has in tackling sexual violence.”
Their is at least some legal precedent to support the MP’s demands. The UK Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Assange should be extradited to Sweden for questioning in the “preliminary investigation” into allegations of rape, sexual misconduct and coercion”. The investigation, which was discontinued by Swedish prosecutors in 2017, has now been reopened (though it must be completed before August 2020, according to the country’s statute of limitations).
Because of these time constraints, the MPs insisted that the government must act quickly to ensure that the allegations against Assange are “respected” and justice isn’t again “denied.”
“Other allegations are already time bound because of the unavailability of Mr Assange,” the MPs said. “Justice has already been denied in respect of those allegations. There is a serious risk that if the UK does not give every co-operation to any renewed request from Sweden there could be a further injustice.”
OF course, demands that Assange be turned over to Sweden instead of the US are a little premature: As home secretary, Sajid Javid would need to decide which request to honor if there are two competing extradition requests (assuming Assange fails to fight the extradition, in which case he would simply face charges for skipping bail in the UK). However, Sweden’s prosecutor has not yet requested that Assange be returned – though it’s likely.