08:54 GMT +322 October 2019
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    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van, after he was arrested by British police, in London, Britain April 11, 2019

    UK MPs Urge Home Secretary to Extradite Assange to Sweden Instead of US

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    The lawmakers say Assange must be extradited to Sweden should Stockholm choose to request it.

    More than 70 UK lawmakers have signed a letter urging both Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott to prioritise Sweden's extradition request over that of the US appeal for Julian Assange should Sweden issue such a request.

    According to the lawmakers, such a gesture will send a "strong message of the priority the UK has in tackling sexual violence and the seriousness with which such allegations are viewed".

    "We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the [Swedish] complainant should see justice be done", the letter says.

    The lawmakers also point out that several rape charges against Assange were dropped because their statute of limitations have expired and the only remaining charge will expire in August 2020.

    "Other allegations are already time bound because of the unavailability of Mr Assange. Justice has already been denied in respect of those allegations. There is a serious risk that if the UK does not give every cooperation to any renewed request from Sweden there could be a further injustice", the letter says.

    Sweden has shelved this investigation because of Assange's unavailability, who has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy for the last seven years. According to the MPs letter, the Swedish victim's lawyer requested for the case to be reopened, but Stockholm authorities have yet to decide whether to satisfy the demand.

    The lawmakers state they will "make no assessment" over which extradition request would win in case of a conflict. Under section 179 of the 2003 Extradition Act, it falls to the home secretary to decide which demand to satisfy, and the decision is made based on a number of criteria, including the relative severity of the offences, the date of the first warrant and the places where they were committed, a report from The Guardian says.

    The letter is a "pointed counter" to Abbott's statement made earlier Friday, in which she asserted Assange's arrest was not about "the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public", according to The Guardian.

    In the meantime, Sven-Erik Alhem, a former Swedish prosecutor, told Swedish news agency TT that reopening the case against Assange would be a "very uphill task".

    "Testimony usually weakens with time, and it's now been 10 years", he said, adding that, considering Assange is not "about to volunteer to come to Sweden", a new international arrest warrant for him must be issued.

    "In all, it seems a very steep hill to climb", he said.

    The Swedish prosecutors say they need to examine the matter now before they can make any announcement. According to lawmakers' letter, Sweden wasn't given prior notice to Assange's eviction from the embassy and his subsequent arrest.

    "We cannot promise any timetable for when decisions will be made", Eva-Marie Persson, a deputy chief prosecutor in Gothenburg, said, according to The Guardian.

    Many journalists around the world have condemned Assange's arrest, unanimously calling it a crime against free speech. Assange's lawyers said the WikiLeaks founder will resist the US extradition request which sets a "dangerous precedent where any journalist could face US charges for publishing truthful information about the United States", The Guardian report says.

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    Tags:
    letter, freedom of speech, arrest, extradition, UK Parlaiment, UK Home Office, Sajid Javid, Diane Abbott, Julian Assange, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom
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