On 30 May, Britain’s Supreme Court turned down the final appeal of Julian Assange against his extradition to Sweden. In an unprecedented move, the court gave the defense team of the WikiLeaks editor permission to “re-apply” to the court in two weeks’ time. On the eve of the judgment, Sweden’s leading morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, known as DN, interviewed investigative journalist John Pilger, who has closely followed the Assange case. The following is the complete text of the interview, of which only a fraction was published in Sweden.
DN: Julian Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden at a number of British courts. Why do you think it is important he wins?
JP: Because the attempt to extradite Assange is unjust and political. I have read almost every scrap of evidence in this case and it’s clear, in terms of natural justice, that no crime was committed. The case would not have got this far had it not been for the intervention of Claes Borgstrom, a politician who saw an opportunity when the Stockholm prosecutor threw out almost all the police allegations. Borgstrom was then in the middle of an election campaign. When asked why the case was proceeding when both women had said that the sex had been consensual with Assange, he replied, “Ah, but they’re not lawyers.” If the Supreme Court in London rejects Assange’s appeal, the one hope is the independence of the Swedish courts. However, as the London Independent has revealed, Sweden and the US have already begun talks on Assange’s “temporary surrender” to the US – where he faces concocted charges and the prospect of unlimited solitary confinement. And for what? For telling epic truths. Every Swede who cares about justice and the reputation of his or her society should care deeply about this.
DN: You have said that Julian Assange’s human rights have been breached. In what way?
JP: One of the most fundamental human rights – that of the presumption of innocence – has been breached over and over again in Assange’s case. Convicted of no crime, he has been the object of character assassination -perfidious and inhuman – and highly political smear, of which the evidence is voluminous. This is what Britain’s most distinguished and experienced human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, has written: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions … it is very hard to preserve for [Assange] any presumption of innocence. He has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country. [And] his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”
DN: You, as well as Julian Assange, don’t seem to have confidence in the Swedish judicial system. Why not?
JP: It’s difficult to have confidence in a prosecutorial system that is so contradictory and flagrantly uses the media to achieve its aims. Whether or not the Supreme Court in London find for or against Assange, the fact that this case has reached the highest court in this country is itself a condemnation of the competence and motivation of those so eager to incarcerate him, having already had plenty of opportunity to question him properly. What a waste all this is.
DN: If Julian Assange is innocent, as he says, would it not have been better if he had gone to Stockholm to sort things out?
JP: Assange tried to “sort things out,” as you put it. Right from the beginning, he offered repeatedly to be questioned – first in Sweden, then in the UK. He sought and received permission to leave Sweden – which makes a nonsense of the claim that he has avoided questioning. The prosecutor who has since pursued him has refused to give any explanation about why she will not use standard procedures, which Sweden and the UK have signed up to.
DN: IF the Supreme Court decides that Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden, what consequences/risks do you see for him?
JP: First, I would draw on my regard for ordinary Swedes’ sense of fairness and justice. Alas, overshadowing that is a Swedish elite that has forged sinister and obsequious links with Washington. These powerful people have every reason to see Julian Assange as a threat. For one thing, their vaunted reputation for neutrality has been repeatedly exposed as a sham in US cables leaked by WikiLeaks. One cable revealed that “the extent of [Sweden’s military and intelligence] co-operation [with NATO] is not widely known” and unless kept secret “would open up the government to domestic criticism.” Another was entitled “WikiLeaks puts neutrality in the dustbin of history.” Don’t the Swedish public have a right to know what the powerful say in private in their name?