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Assange's Swedish lawyer reacts to asylum decision

posted 16 Aug 2012, 10:30 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 16 Aug 2012, 10:31 ]

Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer says the case can easily be solved if the Swedish prosecutor comes to London to interrogate the WikiLeaks' founder .

Ecuador granted political asylum to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange on Thursday (August 16) a day after the British government threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London to arrest the former hacker.

Britain has said it is determined to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is accused of rape and sexual assault, but Assange fears he will ultimately be sent to the United States, where he could face a long imprisonment or even the death penalty for the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables.

Per E Samuelsson, one of the lawyers representing Assange, called on Swedish Prosecutor Marianne Ny to now travel to London to interrogate Assange.

"This means that he has been granted political asylum and that means that an arrest warrant from Sweden can no longer be affected by Great Britain and in it's turn it means that the Swedish prosecutor, in my opinion, must change her attitude and immediately go to London and interrogate Julian Assange, at the embassy of Ecuador which I have requested her to do as late as two weeks ago but she declined to do that but now the situation is new again," he said.

Samuelsson said the prosecutor could bring forward an end to the matter and said Assange wanted to underline that the asylum measure was aimed at the U.S. and not against Sweden.

"The foundation for the arrest warrant was that they wanted an interrogation with Julian Assange in Sweden. Now it is no longer possible to have it in Sweden because he has been granted political asylum but then we can do it in London and that is what we have been wanting all the time and now I think it's time for the prosecutor to change her mind and go along the line and do it quickly in London, then everything will be solved - then the foundation for the European arrest warrant will disappear, and Julian Assange can leave the embassy and go to Ecuador and seek protection from the United States," Samuelsson said.

He said the latest twist should also be in the interests of the two women who have accused Assange of rape and sexual assault, adding that he believed Assange to be innocent.

"They have been waiting two years now and the prosecutor has been waiting for two years now. Everyone wants to put an end to the investigation in Sweden, so they want to interview Julian Assange and he is going to tell them what really happened - I have heard him speak - I know he's not guilty to the accusations and I think it's in the best interest for everyone that we do this interrogation as quickly as possible," Samuelsson, who talked to Assange following the decision, said.

Ecuador said it had tried to get assurances from Britain and Sweden that Assange could not be extradited to a third country but that no assurance had been given. Under European law, neither Britain nor Sweden can extradite anyone to a country where they might face the death penalty.

Swedish prosecutors have not yet charged Assange, but they believe they have a case to take to trial.

The Senior Legal Manager at the Swedish Prosecution service Ola Lofgren, said the process was continuing and there was not much that they could do but wait.

"There is a European arrest warrant issued and as long as it's valid and the process is going on, from the Swedish Prosecution Authority's point of view we still have to wait until the final result will show in this case," he said, adding:

"As long as the person is in the other state where the process is going on there is not much that the issuing authority can do. Just to wait to receive further information from the authorities in the executing state on what is going on but there is nothing really that you can do as a prosecutor in such a case."

Assange has been holed up inside Ecuador's embassy in central London for eight weeks since he lost a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Even after Thursday's decision his fate is still far from clear: Britain has promised to extradite him and the removal of the Ecuadorian embassy's diplomatic status would expose him to immediate arrest by the British authorities.

It was unclear how long Assange could stay in the small embassy - housed on the ground floor of an apartment block - which is under 24-hour surveillance by British police.