On Monday 14 November 2016 Sweden’s Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London to question WikiLeaks Editor in Chief, Julian Assange. The interview marked the continuation of a Preliminary Investigation set in motion some 6 years previously by Chief Prosecutor, Marianne Ny, whose intervention to re-open a closed case has resulted in 6 years of arbitrary detention for Assange.
As the interview, conducted by Ecuadorian officials, took place, supporters of Assange gathered outside the embassy in a show of solidarity and to protest Sweden’s prosecution against him. A steady flow of vigil regulars and others keen to show support grew during Monday morning, with respected human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell joining to lend his weight and experience. A vigil presence continued across the two days of the Swedish visit, and into a third day, too.
Statements and Questioning
It should of course not need repeating, but Assange and his legal representatives have been requesting interview in respect of the outstanding allegation against him since the end of September 2010 (see http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17013&LangID=E) and Ecuador formally lodged a request for an interview in July 2012 (see below). Why it has taken Prosecutor Ny so long to expedite an interview is baffling to most observers, including her own Supreme Court and of course the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Numerous vague excuses around appropriateness, quality and legality have been offered by Ny and indeed Sweden’s then-Foreign Minister over time: these have all proved to be red herrings and have simply delayed the inevitable. For six long years.
So whilst there was optimism among supporters that at last Assange would get the opportunity to further present his account of events in Sweden, and that these would go on record, others were wary of Sweden’s intentions and methods. Day 1 (Monday 14) entailed Assange giving a lengthy statement which lasted for full office hours – Isgren departing after 6pm amid stories of discontent from Assange’s legal team: in particular, it was confirmed that Per Samuelson, Assange’s Swedish lawyer, had been excluded from the process entirely. Assange’s legal representative Jennifer Robinson, gave an update about the situation that evening:
On Tuesday 15 Sweden undertook questioning of Assange, the session lasting until the late afternoon. With a new statement provided by Assange and Sweden developing their enquiries based on the information Julian has given, in full cooperation, it is unclear at this point if the Preliminary Investigation has concluded or whether further visits from Sweden are planned. Pressure should be applied to the Swedish prosecutors to act swiftly in either scenario. It should be remembered the the initial investigation of the allegation against Assange was closed by the Stockholm area prosecutor in just 5 days on the basis “that evidence did not disclose any offence”. It is imperative that Ny either makes a formal charge or closes the investigation without further delay.
Isgren’s early start on Monday had been captured by a healthy media scrum. International focus on the case seemingly strong given both its exceptional circumstances and the attention the work of WikiLeaks has attracted in recent weeks. Crews from the US, not often seen at the embassy, were in evidence, part of a global spectrum of observers, and the UK’s liberal latte-rati, of course, hitting the local coffee shops with full vigour.
Overseas media, particularly Arabic and Latin-American broadcasters, are always keen to engage with supporters, to ask meaningful questions and openly exchange views. Supporters spoke at length to the media during the lull in activity that was most- of-Monday, and in this respect, thanks and credit must go to Peter Tactchell for patiently fielding a series of interviews, and for sharing his thoughts with us:
Via the call-out post on this site international supporters and those who could not travel to London were able to leave messages of solidarity. These were also read out on Monday morning. Thanks to all who contributed, and to Emmy for organising and reading:
A solidarity presence comprising familiar and new supporters stood together across the two days of Sweden’s visit. Across long hours of inactivity and mixed weather, spirits were kept high by music from Australian supporters and the good humour of people who know each other well.
On Wednesday morning recognition of Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ importance in revealing the true nature of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was marked by an additional anti-war protest by regular vigilers and other long-term supporters. Banner drops opposite the embassy thanking WikiLeaks and reminding us of past an on-going conflicts.
Support for Julian Assange and recognition of the irregularities in Sweden’s politically constructed entrapment of him bring forth a glorious melting pot of people in his defence. Australians sticking up for one of their own, Ecuadorians and other Latin Americans both proud of their countries’ brave stance for an individual’s human rights whilst simultaneously resisting US hegemony, from east Asia, and across Europe, Wales, Ireland Scotland, England. Brave and belligerent, funny and feisty, caring and compassionate, loyal and loving – people who have suffered and observed hardship and recognise grave injustice when they see it being handed out to others.
The injustice’s that Julian Assange has suffered, the irregularities that even now continue to mark the prosecution against him, might soon be coming to an end. Marianne Ny’s excuses may be running out. Her non-prosecution of Assange thus far, her for-public-consumption opaqueness, her prevarication, and his arbitrary detention, maybe, just maybe, could be coming to a close. But this is Sweden and Marianne Ny. Do not hold your breath.
Keep watching. Keep protesting.
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister claims UK interview ‘not allowed’ see http://rixstep.com/1/20120707,01.shtml