Assange future uncertain as US extradition threat still looms large
Lawyers for Julian Assange will now shift their efforts to finding out whether an extradition agreement for the WikiLeaks founder exists between the US and British governments.
“The big question is the US warrant. The UK refused to give any indication if such a warrant exists,” Christophe Marchand, a Belgium-based member of Assange’s legal team, told RT. “We want to know whether there is a US warrant, what is in there, whether we can fight against it then we’ll assess what the next step is for Julian Assange.”
Representatives for Assange’s legal team in Australia, Greg Barns and Julian Burnside, shared Marchand’s frustration. “From the point of view of his adviser, the issue now remains the UK arrest warrant and the fact that the UK won’t confirm or deny whether it has a request for extradition by the United States,” Barns said.
Barns called on the Australian government to help Assange to leave the UK, saying he will be contacting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the coming days to canvass for Assange’s safe passage if he decides to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy.
“Now that the Swedish issue is dealt with, as an Australian citizen, he deserves the protection of the Australian government,” he said.
Though Sweden has dropped the charges, the Metropolitan Police have said that the WikiLeaks founder will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy, although he “remains wanted for a much less serious offence,” having failed to surrender to the British courts in 2012.
Assange‘s team are still wary of Swedish prosecutors, however. “As a criminal lawyer I’ve never seen such a gross abuse of justice by a prosecutor so I don’t trust her in her statement,” Marchand said. “We don’t trust the Swedish system to be strong enough to resist [the] demand [for] extradition to the United States.”
“The decision by the Swedish prosecutor only highlights the fact Mr. Assange has been unlawfully detained for years,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based attorney, told RT via email.
“At this point, it is more apparent than ever that the UK should provide Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Recent comments by the United States Attorney General and Director of the CIA demonstrate the obvious need of Assange for asylum. The UK has no legitimate basis to interfere with Ecuador’s lawful decision,” he added.