The UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid is facing calls from more than 70 MPs to prioritise Julian Assange’s potential extradition to Sweden, where he could face an investigation concerning allegations of rape.
The WikiLeaks founder was arrested on Thursday after spending seven years in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had claimed asylum after Sweden called for him to face questioning over claims of rape and sexual assault.
Swedish authorities were forced to drop the rape case in 2017 because the diplomatic protection offered to him by Ecuador meant that they were unable exercise a European arrest warrant.
Following his arrest, Swedish prosecutors said the lawyer for one of the women involved had requested the rape investigation be resumed. They have the ability to reopen the probe until next August under Sweden’s statute of limitations. Mr Assange has denied the allegations.
In their letter to Mr Javid, MPs urged the minister to “stand with the victims of sexual violence”. The letter, which is signed by a cross-party coalition of MPs, said: “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 both to confirm that you will give every assistance to Sweden should they want to revive and pursue the investigation. We must send a strong message of the priority the UK has in tackling sexual violence.”
The 47-year-old Australian is also charged in the US in connection with the 2010 Cablegate revelation by WikiLeaks of thousands of official US documents and communications. He currently faces an extradition request from the US, but not yet from Sweden. If there are two competing extradition requests, Mr Javid would have to decide whether he should be extradited, and if so, to which jurisdiction.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour party, has called on the British government to block the extradition of Julian Assange to the US on a computer hacking charge.
Mr Corbyn said: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.”
The UK’s Supreme Court ruled in May 2012 that Mr Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning overs allegations related to encounters he had with two women in Sweden in 2010.
Investigations into some of the claims were dropped in 2015 while the rape investigation was discontinued in May 2017.
“Other allegations are already time bound because of the unavailability of Mr Assange”, the MPs said. “Justice has already been denied in respect of those allegations. There is a serious risk that if the UK does not give every co-operation to any renewed request from Sweden there could be a further injustice.”