A senior judge from Sweden’s supreme court, Justice Stefan Lindskog, has told an Australian audience that Julian Assange’s argument he cannot stand trial in Sweden without being extradited to the USA is not as black and white as the wikileaker would have us believe.
Lindskog yesterday told an audience at the University of Adelaide that unless Assange is charged with a crime that directly correlates to a law on the books of both Sweden and the USA, the Scandinavian nation won’t be able to hand him over.
A video of Lindskog’s talk is online here. At about the 25:00 mark he explains some rather lurid details of events that took place inside Stockholm bedrooms and have since become so contentious that Assange last year holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy. Assange remains there to this day, reportedly because he fears he cannot get a fair trial in Sweden. The leaker-in-chief has also said that once in Sweden he will be charged with other crimes by the USA and extradited to face those charges. Assange has said the US charges could carry the death penalty.
Starting at the 51:00 mark in the talk, Lindskog addresses the theory that facing trial in Sweden will mean extradition to the USA, and almost dismisses it.
“Extradition is permitted provided the offence for which extradition is requested is equivalent to a crime punishable under Swedish law by imprisonment of at least one year,” Lindskog says. “Thus, extradition requires firstly an offence punishable under the law of both countries – dual criminality – and secondly that the offence is of a certain degree of seriousness.”
Lindskog also says “extradition may not be granted for military or political offences” and explains that Swedish law won’t permit extradition if the subject of such a request is likely to experience persecution or “is serious in any other respects” or "is contrary to fundamental humanitarian principles”.
“We have some specifics when it comes to extradition to the United States,” Lindskog added, including prohibitions on extradition for political or military acts.
Lindskog then says he doesn’t know what crimes Assange could be charged with in the USA for leaking US secrets and hypothesises unlawful communication of secret material will be the basis of any charge. Sweden does have such an offence on its books, but “it can be debated” leaking American documents is not a crime under Swedish Law. Even “aiding the enemy” provisions of US and Swedish laws may be hard, as the USA’s enemies are not necessarily Sweden’s enemies. Nor is Lindskog satisfied that publishing secret documents to the world constitutes aiding the enemy, possibly making it hard to establish dual criminality.
Another legal issue is the source privilege that protects journalists from having to reveal their sources. Lindskog says the law is unclear on whether Assange can enjoy that protection.
Lindskog doesn't say so explicitly, but his talk certainly outlines there are many legal barriers to be overcome before the USA could extract Assange.
His personal view, enunciated at 1:04:30, is that Assange has done good works.
“At the end of the day Assange will be thought of as someone who made public certain pieces of information,” Lindskog says, adding that he feels many of Wikileaks’ leaks “were good for society and should not be punished.”
“The good made by leakage of such information cannot be underestimated,” he says. “It should never be a crime to make known the crime of a state.”
If the extradition case comes before Lindskog, it seems Assange may have a sympathetic ear. ®