After a preliminary ruling that he must be extradited to Sweden for trial, Julian Assange speaks to the media and outlines the problems he sees in the European justice system. He hopes that his case can be used as a vehicle to fix some of these problems.
What we saw today at Bel-mash was a rubber-stamping process, which comes at no surprise, but is none the less wrong. A rubber-stamping process that is a result of a European arrest warrant system run amok. There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merits of the allegations made against me. No consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden. And of course we have always known that we would appeal. We have always known that in all likelihood we would have to appeal. 95% of European arrest warrants are successful. That is something that Fair Trials International has rightly condemned. And it is right that there is a review of UK extradition procedures in June to deal with some of those abuses of the European arrest warrant in law. And for abuses relating to other countries such as the United States.
On February 20, the US Ambassador to the UK, Louis Sussman told the BBC's Andrew Marr that the United States in relation to its on-going investigations and attempts to charge me with espionage, said they would have to see what happens here today with the British courts. Why is that? What does the United States have to do with a Swedish extradition process?
Now it has been falsely stated that I have said that the CIA or the Pentagon was involved in the initial allegations. I have never stated that. I have never stated who or what was behind those initial allegations, other than to say that they are simply untrue. However, the process and the handling of those allegations in Sweden - allegations that one of the prosecution's witnesses say were as a result of railroading and pressure by others is something that deserves serious scrutiny. Why is it that I am subject - a non-profit, free-speech activist - to a $360,000 bail? Why is it that I am kept under electronic house-arrest when I have not even been charged in any country? When I have never been a fugitive? A finding that was made by Justice Oozley in the Higher Court.
The scrutiny of the European arrest warrant system needs to start now. It cannot be the case that simply filling out two-pages with someone's name and a suspicion - not a charge - can lead to their extradition without any consideration of the allegations against them to any one of 26 European nations. 3 people a day are being extradited from the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe in a rubber-stamped process. The magistrate here today felt that he was constrained to not even consider anything that was not on those two pages. His finding was that he did not need to look off the face of the warrant to consider any matters that were not part of those two pages, where there is literally a box to be ticked.
We need a system in Europe where the justice systems of our 26 nation countries can be scrutinized by every country, and the best way to have that scrutiny is when one person is extradited to another country. The standards of fair trial - the abuses of trial procedures - whether there are juries or not, whether juries are politically appointed or not - that is something that deserves consideration. The basic facts and allegations against an individual deserve consideration. To take someone from the United Kingdom, from their home language, from their supporters and their relatives, and thrust them into a foreign land where they do not speak the language, where documents are not provided to them in their own language, where they do not understand the legal system or legal process is a very grave matter. And such matters deserve far more than a two-page form filled out by a member of the bureaucracy. Because European nations cooperate with each other and are trying to form a better union does not mean that they are all the same. It does not mean that police, prosecutors or bureaucrats can use or should use the coercive power of another state to drag people off to an uncertain destiny.
We've had cases here recently in the United Kingdom where people have been extradited after living here ten years to face debts in Poland for mortgages - criminal indebtedness - a concept that is alien to our system of the common law. Similarly it is alien to our system of justice and our system of what is right to send people to a trial that will be closed - conducted in secret - when those same government authorities have broken their own laws and released my name, preliminary parts of their investigation to the media - secretly; to favored media - and refused to release those same documents to us. Something is not right when that is done. And the only way in the long term that such things can be held to account is for outside scrutiny. And outside scrutiny requires the scrutiny of each nation in Europe to the procedures of every nation in Europe. The European arrest warrant system was rushed in as a result of September 11, designed to quickly ship suspected terrorists from one state of the E.U. to another. It should probably never have been introduced in that form, but it came at a time of heightened fear about terrorist attack. Now it is being used in a wide variety of cases. It has crept out beyond suspected terrorists and to the average person. That is something that needs to be stopped, and we hope that through our appeal process we will shed some light on those abuses. We will also shed some light on some of the problems with the Swedish justice system - and there are many. And Swedes know there are many. And many good Swedes who are aware of those problems and want to seek reform and want to use my case as a way of shedding light on similar abuses that are occurring within Sweden, have come to us in private and sometimes in public. And I call on all those people in Sweden who have seen evidence of abuse of process to step forward. To not be scared to talk to their local newspapers, to not be scared to talk to the international press, and to not be scared to talk to us. Come forward. Talk about it. I call on the Swedish press - many of you who I have met - to be brave and to start talking about these problems in Sweden. I call upon editors in Sweden to open up your editorial spaces - let your bravest journalists speak. Let those people that have been victimized by these abuses of process speak, because this case is not just about me, it is not just about the pressure the United States brings to bear on the United Kingdom and on Sweden and on the media. It offers a real hope for reform of key aspects of the Swedish justice system. It offers a hope for reform of the E.U. arrest warrant system - that system of rubber-stamped deportation. So I call on you to make this bigger than me. Take this case and bring it back home - make it your own case and your own virtue. And in doing so you will not only help yourselves and help each other, but you'll make this ridiculous time that I spend on this nonsense worthwhile. Thank you.
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