1. ITV Report

Parliamentarians urge Government to ensure Assange can be extradited to Sweden

Julian Assange is facing rape and sexual assault allegations in Sweden Photo: PA

More than 70 Parliamentarians have signed a letter urging the Government to ensure Julian Assange faces Swedish authorities if they request his extradition.

Labour and Co-op MP Stella Creasy shared a copy of the note on social media which has been sent to Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

WikiLeaks founder Assange, 47, is facing rape and sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

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The message, shared on Twitter, reads: “We are writing to request that you do everything you can to champion action that will ensure Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden make an extradition request.

“This would be so the formal investigation into an allegation of rape can be concluded and, if appropriate, a charge can be made and any trial can take place.

“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done.

“We urge you to stand with the victims of sexual violence and seek to ensure the case against Mr Assange can now be properly investigated.”

The rape allegation has a limitation period which expires in August 2020, it adds.

Assange had been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years Credit: Rebecca Brown/PA

Assange spent almost seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought political asylum in 2012 after failing in his legal battle against extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted over two separate allegations, one of rape and one of molestation.

In May 2017, Sweden’s top prosecutor dropped the long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange, which he has always denied.

But his arrest prompted the lawyer for a Swedish woman who alleged she was raped by Assange during a visit to Stockholm in 2010 to say they wanted the case reopened.

Prosecutors in Sweden have since confirmed that, while the investigation has not been resumed, they are looking into the case.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock told the BBC: “Mr Assange is accused of rape and sexual violence in Sweden and it’s vital that that doesn’t get airbrushed out of the conversation because of all the other issues to do with WikiLeaks.

“I think the top priority, as we say in our letter, is to ensure that if the Swedish authorities wish to have him extradited there to face those charges, they must take priority above all else.”

Former Home Secretary Lord Blunkett said people giving Assange “unqualified support” were being “extremely unwise”.

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Writing in The Times, the former Labour MP said: “It is indeed important that any extradition hearing should be fair and take into account the mitigation of genuine revelations of wrongdoing made in 2010.

“However, supporting a fair hearing is not the same as a political demand that he should be treated as some kind of hero; he remained in the Ecuadorean embassy to avoid previous extradition hearings concerning claims of rape and abuse in Sweden.

“A kneejerk response that presumes that hacking is acceptable if the perpetrators can claim that their motives were journalistic is particularly dangerous when it emanates from those aspiring to become prime minister or home secretary, such as Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott.”

His predecessor as home secretary Jack Straw also wrote in the paper, saying: “There is no higher duty on any government than to protect a nation’s security, including its critical IT.

“If Corbyn were prime minister, would hackers who compromised the UK’s security be allowed a free pass?”

Labour former lord chancellor Lord Falconer told BBC Radio 4: “I think this is really a matter for the courts to decide, isn’t it?”

Referring to Mr Assange, Lord Falconer said: “I don’t think politicians should be saying he should or should not be… extradited.”

Tory former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC: “The minimising of the issues in relation to sexual assault are really quite disturbing.

“You read the testimony and concerns of the women who have been involved, I have no view on the matter because it must come before a court, but it seems essential to me that he should face justice for what he has been accused of.

“Either to acquit him, or to see him appropriately convicted.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry tweeted: “Why weren’t Swedish authorities told in advance of Assange’s ejection from Ecuadorian embassy, as the US clearly was?

“Our priority should be the 2 alleged victims of sexual violence in Sweden & not a ruse to get him extradited to the US as a whistleblower.”