‘Does anyone seriously think this is about a broken condom?’
High-profile QC Julian Burnside has said the Swedish government has given away its true motivation for seeking to extradite Julian Assange.
Burnside told Lawyers Weekly that it is important to expose the illogical steps being taken by Sweden to get the WikiLeaks founder into custody.
“I do not believe that all of this fuss and bother is about an arguably broken condom ... it is impossible to believe ... the point of the whole exercise is to get Assange to America,” he said.
“An immense amount of trouble has been taken to get [Assange] to Sweden, ostensibly to ask him some questions about what is a low level offence ... when they could achieve their purpose by accepting his invitation to speak to him where he is.”
Burnside explained that the Swedish prosecutor visited England in December to obtain the European Arrest Warrant seeking Assange’s extradition to Sweden, but chose not to question him at that time, even though questioning was the sole purpose of the warrant.
The Australian Government should persuade Swedish authorities to question Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, said Burnside, claiming it is “a perfectly reasonable way to resolve the impasse ... you really have to wonder why they don’t do the sensible thing”.
But, he added, the Government has abandoned the WikiLeaks founder and described as “bullshit” claims by Foreign Minister Bob Carr that Australia is doing all it can to assist Assange.
“Australia needs to rouse itself out of its slumber and make a diplomatic effort,” he said. “They know it’s shameful, they know it’s a breach of their duty to him as an Australian citizen.”
Last year, Burnside wrote a letter to the then federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon asking, among other questions, if Australia had enquired whether US authorities are investigating Assange. It also detailed the reasons why Assange feared extradition to Sweden would result in his removal to America, including the fact that prominent Americans have called for Assange to be assassinated or tried for espionage, and Sweden has a witness surrender agreement with the US.
Burnside said he was “completely unsatisfied” with the Attorney-General’s response, which led him to believe that either Australia was aware of American plans from which Assange needed protection, or had suspicions about American plans and preferred to turn a blind eye.
He added that the law relating to treason is the counterpart of the Government’s obligation to protect its citizens, a duty it has blatantly failed to meet in Assange’s case.
Last month, Swedish Supreme Court Judge Stefan Lindskog described the case against Assange as “a mess” in a public lecture held at Adelaide University. The speech attracted extensive media attention, but Burnside warned it gave cause for optimism when Assange is still very much at risk of being extradited to the US.