Assange still risks the wrath of the United States government.
On Thursday, sexual assault allegations against controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are set to be dropped as the statute of limitations expires. Though the Swedish government’s accusations against him are all but guaranteed to expire, Assange still faces further legal hurdles for his celebrated—and scorned—leaks of damning government documents.
The five year statute of limitations on three of four sexual assault claims are set to expire Thursday, and Swedish prosecutors told The Times that this is enough to shutter the case. Another allegation is set to expire nextTuesday. No charges have been officially filed against Assange because he has not returned to Sweden, where the claims for the 2010 alleged assaults originated. Because of his political refugee status in Ecuador, Assange been able to elude extradition by staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 (since Assange took refuge there, the U.K. government has spent £11 million, or $17 million to patrol it).
The Swedish government is actively attempting to reach a deal with Ecuador that would allow prosecutors to interview Assange for the case. On Tuesday, Sweden offered to arrange for its attorneys to interview him in London. Assange has insisted on being interviewed in the English capital city, citing fears that if he returns to Sweden, the government could extradite him to the United States. Though it is likely he would face serious charges for high crimes in the U.S. because of his leaks of sensitive information, the U.S. Justice department has previously failed to confirm or deny its intentions.
As far back as March, Swedish senior justice ministry official Cecilia Riddselius acknowledged the situation was urgent because of the claims’ impending expiration. This is not the Swedish government’s first attempt to strike a deal. As the Guardian reports,
“In April, Assange consented to the prosecutor’s conditions for an interview. But as this month’s deadline under the statute of limitations drew closer, progress towards a London interview was slow. Sweden formally requested permission from Ecuador to enter the embassy only two months later, and an agreed date of 17 June to begin the questioning had to be cancelled at the last minute amid mutual accusations of blame for the delay.”
In May, the Swedish supreme court rejected an appeal by Assange to drop the allegations.
Tensions in the negotiations remain high. Riddselius claimed this week that negotiators in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, demanded the Swedish government grant Assange the same political refugee status he has enjoyed from Ecuador since 2012.
However, a statement by the Ecuadorian embassy appears to address these claims: “At no point has the Republic of Ecuador asked the Kingdom of Sweden to grant Mr Assange asylum,” it reads. Even so, Riddselius has said Ecuador’s demands in the negotiation process were “in complete violation of [Sweden’s] principles of justice.”
Assange is notorious for his leaks of sensitive, secretive government data. He unveiled “Collateral Murder,” a widely-viewed video of U.S. soldiers in Iraq shooting and killing civilians and journalists. The leaks led to the prosecution, conviction, and 35 year sentencing of whistleblower Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning. Wikileaks has also leaked incriminating information regarding the Russian, Saudi, and Israeli governments, among many others.
While the sexual assault accusations are serious, Assange has insisted he is innocent. But even if the charges expire on Thursday, he still carries one charge of “rape, less serious” that will not expire until 2020.
Though it is highly probable that a majority of the claims will expire this week, this does not guarantee his freedom. Even if Assange avoids sexual assault charges, he still risks the wrath of the United States government.
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Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. As a senior editor, her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised. Learn more about Wedler here!
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