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Fri Jun 29, 2012, 10:02 PM

Does Ms Susan Benn suffer from hallucinations?

Mr Assange was served requesting his surrender because he exhausted his appeals in both the UK and Sweden, failed to pursue an appeal to the European court at Strasbourg, and recently jumped bail. The UK now is therefore pursuing his extradition pursuant to law.

Mr Assange had already appealed the 18 November 2010 arrest order issued by the Stockholm District Court, and the international and European warrants, to the District Court, which upheld the warrants 30 November 2010, and had appealed the Court of Appeals judgment to Sweden's Supreme Court, which denied his appeal 2 December 2010.

On 7 December 2010, he surrendered to the London police and was remanded to Wandsworth but was released 16 December 2010 with bail and sureties, subject to certain bail conditions. His extradition hearing was held in early February at Belmarsh, and his extradition upheld 24 February 2011. He appealed to the High Court, which heard his appeal and then contemplated the matter for four months before dismissing his appeal on 2 November 2011. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which likewise heard his appeal and then contemplated the matter for four months before dismissing his appeal on 30 May 2012. The Supreme Court refused to reopen his case but granted Assange until 28 June to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Instead, Mr Assange jumped bail.

Ms Benn believes Mr Assange's cries for asylum "take priority over extradition claims." The UK, of course, in a spirit of friendship with Ecuador, will not violate the Ecuadorian embassy. But the UK does not recognize "diplomatic asylum," and Mr Assange's fear of extradition to Sweden on a sex complaint is not based on any internationally cognizable fear of persecution. A few years ago, Mr Assange was contemplating a permanent move to Sweden and applied for permanent residency there. But almost immediately after applying for residency, he suddenly quit the country, complaining he "fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism."

Ms Susan Benn would have us think Mr Assange's "life and liberty ... are at stake." With respect to the charges in Sweden this claim seems manifestly untrue, since the obvious charges Mr Assange faces there are punished only by a fine, although Mr Assange could possibly be subject to detention as a flight risk while the Swedish authorities sorted matters -- an outcome unfortunately made more probable by Mr Assange's own behavior in jumping bail with the hope of asylum in Ecuador.

It would, of course, not be all surprising if there were a US investigation into Mr Assange and other members of his organization, insofar as these people seem to have obtained, through a contact in the US military, an unprecedented trove of documents. US intelligence and counter-intelligence experts have no doubt been wracking their brains over the question of whether the entire affair is as simple as the popular public versions of it, or whether the whole show is a coordinated sideshow to distract attention from another piece of more substantial espionage. Mr Assange's love of personal secrecy, and his flair for stunts like the alleged encrypted "nuclear file," probably have not set at ease the minds of the US intelligence and counter-intelligence establishment -- not least because Assange has the gigantic ego and love of games that one might expect from a successful double or triple agent.

But whether various other countries would, or would not, extradite Mr Assange to the US on espionage charges is, of course, moot at present, as there is no actual evidence that any espionage charges have been filed against Mr Assange anywhere. The alleged "credible reports that a sealed indictment has already been made against Mr Assange" presumably refers to the supposed Stratfor email, apparently obtained in an FBI sting operation against a small group amateur hackers and released by Mr Assange's Wikileaks (not an uninterested party) -- a document whose provenance thus deserves great skepticism.

Even if there were a sealed indictment, awaiting unsealing at a convenient time, Sweden cannot extradite a person to the US, after that person has been extradited to Sweden from another EU country, without first obtaining the consent of that EU country, as discussed on the Prosecuting Authority's webpage:

Facts about extradition and surrender
... if the extradition concerns a country outside the European Union the authorities in the executing country (the country that surrendered the person) must consent such extradition. Sweden cannot, without such consent, extradite a person, for example to the USA ... The Principle of Speciality applies here, i.e. the person surrendered to Sweden may not be tried for any crimes other than those stated in the arrest warrant and may not be surrendered to another state, unless the original surrendering country grants its permission. In addition, the conditions imposed by the surrendering country also apply.

Apparently, none of this matters to Ms Benn, who foresees torture and execution in her crystal ball. Ms Benn apparently reaches these conclusions based on her view of the Bradley Manning case: "The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture .. has formally found that the United States has subjected .. Bradley Manning, to conditions amounting to torture." This is inaccurate: the document to examine is A/HRC/19/61/Add.4, dated 29 February 2012:

... In his report, the Special Rapporteur stressed that “solitary confinement is a harsh measure which may cause serious psychological and physiological adverse effects on individuals regardless of their specific conditions.” Moreover, “<d>epending on the specific reason for its application, conditions, length, effects and other circumstances, solitary confinement can amount to a breach of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to an act defined in article 1 or article 16 of the Convention against Torture” ... In response to the Special Rapporteur’s request for the reason to hold an unindicted detainee in solitary confinement, the government responded that his regimen was not “solitary confinement” but “prevention of harm watch” ... http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2012/03/12/A_HRC_19_61_Add.4_EFSonly-2.pdf

In actual fact, the Special Rapporteur has declined to interview Manning because: "The US Government authorized the visit but ascertained that it could not ensure that the conversation would not be monitored." It is a good principle that persons, who are allegedly being tortured, should have some access to private unmonitored interviews, and no doubt the Special Rapporteur is right to stand on this principle. But absent specific evidence, all the Special Rapporteur can do is stand on principle, and that is all he does: "The Special Rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence. We shall all, of course, agree with that principle, although the principle itself does not tell us anything whatsoever about the conditions of Manning's detention.

With a similar carelessness, Ms Benn would have us know that "Mr. Manning has been charged by the US government with the capital offense of 'aiding the enemy'" -- whereas in fact

... the prosecution formally declined to categorize the charge of “aiding the enemy” as a capital offense, when Manning’s charges were officially referred on Feb. 3 ... http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/wikisecrets/live-blog-bradley-mannings-arraignment/

Ms Benn deduces from this very thin soup: "So it is clear that there is a legal process in place which will result in taking Julian to the US, which if allowed to succeed would violate his basic rights. And then she throws out what she apparently regards as devastating argument:

Swedish authorities have refused, without reason, to make the 3 hour trip to London and to interview Julian causing him to be trapped in the UK under virtual house arrest for 561 days and an additional 10 days in solitary confinement – all without charge. Instead they have issued an INTERPOL Red notice and extradition requests.

Beyond this, Ms Benn adds: Julian and his legal team have previously sought assurances from both the UK government and the Swedish government that they will guarantee safe passage after the completion of legal interviews with Mr Assange and both have previously refused.

So the situation at present seems to be that Mr Assange, having skipped bail and trotted into the Ecuadorian embassy, is waggling his tongue at the Swedes: Neener! neener! neener! You should have come to get me! And he is adding conditions for his cooperation: Well, I don't know! Why can't you guarantee nobody else will ever prosecute me?

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