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Sweden: If Assange faces death row in US we won’t extradite him

Published time: August 21, 2012 12:02
Edited time: August 22, 2012 10:41

A copy of German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.(AFP Photo / John Macdougall)

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The Swedish government will not extradite Assange to the US should he face the death penalty there, as any possible extradition request from Washington is then subject to strict conditions, an official from the country’s Justice Ministry declared.

­“We will never surrender a person to the death penalty,” the deputy director of the Service for Criminal Cases and International Cooperation of Sweden’s Justice Ministry said in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on Tuesday.

This means there should be strict guarantees from the US government that “the prisoner will not be executed in any case,” added Cecilia Riddselius. But, she added, so far her country has not received any extradition request from Washington. 

In June, Cecilia Riddselius admitted there were opportunities for countries to request different types of guarantees in relation to extradition. Sweden may request that an extradited person will not be sentenced to the death penalty, he or she will not be tortured, should not be prosecuted for offences other than those which he or she was delivered for and not to be charged before a special court.

However, Riddselius then stressed, Sweden cannot guarantee in advance that Assange will not be extradited.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted in Sweden for questioning over sexual misconduct. He and his supporters, however, fear that if extradited to Sweden, he may be further extradited to the United States, where he could then face the death penalty for espionage following the publication of thousands of classified documents, including secret cables of the US State Department.

Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced it has granted the world-famous whistleblower political asylum. The decision came almost two months after Assange took refuge in the country’s London embassy seeking protection from extradition to Sweden.

The decision has already become the epicenter of a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Great Britain, with London threatening to storm the embassy. Ecuador has already taken the issue to the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which unanimously backed the country’s right to grant Assange asylum and condemned British threats to raid a sovereign state’s embassy in order to arrest him.

Ecuador also promised to appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if the UK refuses to grant Julian Assange safe passage out of the country.

According to WikiLeaks, all of this could be avoided if they managed to obtain a guarantee of no re-extradition from Sweden.

A spokesperson for WikiLeaks stressed that Assange would “gladly go to Sweden for questioning if they were able to guarantee that [he] wouldn’t be extradited to the United States”.

Loz Kaye, leader of UK Pirate Party, thinks Assange’s defense team will not settle for the guarantees given by the Swedish leadership.

“It’s common practice that EU countries don’t extradite when there’s a question of the death penalty, so I don’t think that these assurances…will be likely to actually satisfy the Assange camp. These assurances don’t have a legally-binding nature.”

While deciding on Assange’s political asylum Ecuador also offered Sweden the chance to question him at the embassy, but Stockholm brushed away the possibility.

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