Seven months after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released on bail, he returns to London’s High Court to appeal his extradition. If he fails, Assange will be sent to Sweden within ten days. But many believe his next stop will be America.
“I think the worry is that Sweden, which in the past has extradited people to America with a minimum of fuss, when they were asked, was seen as a possible back door to get him out of Britain,” Paul Wiffen, a former London mayoral candidate says.
What awaits him in the US is the anger of the likes of Karl Rove, who said: “In my mind he’s a criminal and he ought to be hunted down and grabbed and put on trial for what he has done.” A notorious neo-conservative, Rove helped the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt win re-election last year.
There is another glaring link in the shape of lawyer Thomas Bodstrum. His firm is representing the two women bringing sex charges against Assange. In 2001, he was Minister of Justice, and is alleged to have helped hand over two asylum seekers suspected by the CIA of terrorism. They were sent to Egypt and allegedly tortured. He might well want to stop WikiLeaks from functioning.
“The questions about neutrality became even clearer thanks to the documents from exactly WikiLeaks. There’s been a willingness to do the errands of the United States over many years, from questions of making asylum seekers in Sweden available to the CIA, but is particularly strong now with a right-leaning government in Sweden,” says Dr Brian Palmer, social anthropologist at the Swedish Uppsala University.
Sweden wants Assange on sex crime charges. The US is reportedly preparing an espionage case. And it suits non-NATO member Sweden just fine to be a conduit in this case, and in others.
“They get all the benefits of being an intelligence partner of the US, without the baggage of being in NATO,” explains journalist Wayne Madsen.
Sweden is seen as an easier way for the US to get their hands on Assange, particularly after it requested the extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon from Britain, which so far has not been granted. But critics say the UK is just as much in cahoots with the US as Sweden.
“It’s kind of the traditional role of Britain to represent US foreign policy in Europe. That’s what it does, militarily and politically, so no changes there unfortunately,” says campaigner Keiron O’Reilly.
As Julian Assange goes back to court in London he will have an eye on the British justice system, which could save him from being extradited. But the other eye will be firmly fixed on Sweden, a country that insists on its own neutrality, whilst turning asylum seekers over to the US to be allegedly tortured. Only Assange and his staff at WikiLeaks know what else Sweden has got to hide.