LONDON – Over 70 lawmakers in the United Kingdom have asked the home secretary to give priority to a possible Swedish extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to face rape allegations over a request from the United States for hacking charges.
Assange, 47, remains in British custody after he was arrested on Thursday at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was holed up for almost seven years after breaching bail in 2012 over fears that sexual assault allegations lodged in Sweden could ultimately lead to his extradition to the US to face trial over the leaking of secret government information.
In 2010, Wikileaks dumped thousands of confidential documents relating to the US invasion of Iraq.
In a letter, which was predominantly signed by members of the opposition Labour Party, parliamentarians asked the home secretary, Sajid Javid, to “do everything you can to champion action that will ensure that Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden makes 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,” it said.
“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complaint should see justice be done,” the letter, coordinated by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips, added.
While one of the original allegations against Assange as passed its statute of limitation, another is not due to lapse until 2020.
Swedish prosecutors have left the door open to the possibility that the investigation against the journalist and activists for alleged rape could be reopened.
The letter said it appeared that Swedish prosecutors had not been alerted in advance of Ecuador’s plans to withdraw asylum from Assange.
“The decision to rescind the political asylum of Mr Assange by the Ecuadorian authorities seems to have been something of which both the UK and US authorities were made aware in advance,” said the letter, dated April 12.
“We would welcome clarity as to what actions the UK authorities took to ensure that the Swedish prosecutors were informed in advance of this decision,” it added.
The letter came after the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK said that in the case of competing extradition requests, it was up to the home secretary to decide which to enact first.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Friday urged against extraditing Assange to the US.
On Thursday, a court found Assange guilty of breaching bail conditions seven years ago, when he was due to answer for cases of sexual assault he allegedly committed in Sweden.
Assange is due to appear via videoconference at the Westminster Magistrates Court on May 2 to begin proceedings for his possible extradition to the US, who want to investigate his links to Chelsea Manning, a former US soldier who supplied Wikileaks with confidential information.
Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in its London embassy following a lengthy Swedish extradition battle in the UK courts.
Assange has been charged in the US with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion,” which can carry a sentence of five years.