Modern Australian

what charges does Julian Assange face, and what's likely to happen next?

  • Written by Holly Cullen, Adjunct professor, University of Western Australia

Julian Assange, the Australian cofounder of Wikileaks, was arrested on April 11 by British police at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been claiming political asylum for almost seven years.

He has faced a range of criminal charges and extradition orders, and several crucial aspects of his situation remain to be resolved.

What are the British charges against Assange, and what sentence could be imposed?

Assange moved into the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 after losing the final appeal against his transfer to Sweden on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW). He was then charged with failing to surrender to the court.

While in the embassy, Assange could not be arrested because of the international legal protection of diplomatic premises, which meant police could not enter without Ecuador’s consent. On April 11, British police were invited into the embassy and made the arrest. On the same day, Assange was found guilty, and awaits sentencing. The charge of failing to surrender to the court carries a jail term of up to 12 months.

What are the US charges against Assange?

Also on April 11, the United States government unsealed an indictment made in March 2018, charging Assange with a conspiracy to help whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack a password which enabled her to pass on classified documents that were then published by WikiLeaks. The US has requested that the UK extradite Assange to face these charges before a US court.

What were the Swedish charges, and could they be revived?

In 2010, a Swedish prosecutor issued the EAW requesting Assange’s transfer to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, which he denies. In 2016, Assange was questioned by Swedish authorities by video link while he remained in the Ecuadorian embassy. In 2017, they closed their investigation.

After Assange was arrested and removed from the embassy, the lawyer for one of the complainants indicated she would ask the prosecutor to reopen the case, as the statute of limitations on the alleged offence does not expire until 2020. As of April 12, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority is formally reviewing the case and could renew its request for extradition.

What are Britain’s legal obligations to extradite to Sweden or the US?

The UK, as a member of the European Union (for now!), is obliged to execute an EAW. The law on EAWs is similar to extradition treaties. However, the law also says it is up to the UK to decide whether to act first on the EAW from Sweden or the US extradition request.

Bilateral extradition treaties are usually based on identical reciprocal obligations. But the current UK-US extradition treaty, agreed in 2003, has been criticised for allowing the UK to extradite a person to the US solely on the basis of an allegation and an arrest warrant, without any evidence being produced, despite the fact that “probable cause” is required for extradition the other way.

The relative ease of extradition from the UK to the US has long been one of the concerns of Assange’s legal team. The treaty does not include a list of extraditable offences but allows for extradition for any non-political offence for which both states have criminalised the behaviour, which carries a sentence of at least one year in prison.

Espionage and treason are considered core “political offences”, which is why the US request is limited to the charge of computer fraud. Conspiracy to commit an extraditable offence is covered in the US-UK treaty, as it is in the EAW (and in the US-Australia extradition treaty).

Assange may legally challenge his extradition either to the US or to Sweden (as he previously did). Such challenges could take months or even years, particularly if Assange applies to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that an extradition request involved a human rights violation.

Given Assange’s previous conduct, and the likelihood that he will be sentenced to prison for failure to surrender to court, he will probably remain in a UK prison until all legal avenues are exhausted.

What are Australia’s obligations to Assange?

As an Australian citizen, Assange is entitled to consular protection by the Australian government, which means staff from the Australian High Commission in London will provide support for him in the legal process. The extent of that support is not set in stone, however, and both Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have declined to provide detail on the basis that the matter is before the courts.

One possibility is that Assange will serve his sentence for failing to surrender to the court, after which the UK will deport him to Australia. At that point, it is possible the US could request extradition from Australia, and the US-Australian extradition treaty would apply. The US charges would most likely be covered although not specifically mentioned in the treaty.

As with the UK-US treaty, political offences are excluded, and an extradited person can only be tried for the offence in the extradition request or a related offence, and in any event not for an offence not covered by the treaty. In addition, the treaty specifies that neither Australia nor the US is obliged to extradite its own nationals, but may do so. The fact that Australia has the option to refuse extradition purely on the ground of Assange’s nationality could lead to intense pressure on the government to do just that.

Authors: Holly Cullen, Adjunct professor, University of Western Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-charges-does-julian-assange-face-and-whats-likely-to-happen-next-115362

NEWS

Quantum physics experiment shows Heisenberg was right about uncertainty, in a certain sense

Quantum particles are not really just particles... they are also waves.Shutterstock/agsandrewThe word uncertainty is used a lot in quantum mechanics. One school of thought is that this means there’s something...

Setka furore opens division within the labour movement – and there is no easy solution

Setka has form in attracting negative media attention as Victorian state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union.AAP/Daniel PockettJohn Setka’s reported comments about Rosie Batty have the...

Michelle Grattan on John Setka, press freedom, Adani approval and tax

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has called for John Setka to be expelled from the Labor Party.AAP/Bianca de MarchiMichelle Grattan talks with University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President Academic, Professor...

Built like buildings, boab trees are life-savers with a chequered past

A boab tree in the Kimberley. Boab trees can live for thousands of years and their trunks hollow out as they get older. ShutterstockSign up to the Beating Around the Bush...

Proposal to mine fossil-rich site in New Zealand sparks campaign to protect it

Foulden Maar formed 23 million years ago and contains tens of thousands of fossils of extinct plants and animals.Supplied, CC BY-NDAn Australian company’s application to mine a fossil-rich site in...

what it's like to be a pensioner renting privately as Australia's housing costs soar

Older private renters are far more likely to experience loneliness than their counterparts in social housing and that loneliness can be acute.ShutterstockA growing number of older Australians don’t own their...

How a cyber attack hampered Hong Kong protesters

Massive public protests taking place in Hong Kong over the past week are aimed at a new extradition law, known as the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, that would see accused criminals...

is white meat as bad for your cholesterol levels as red meat?

Whether you're eating red meat or white meat, a lean cut is the healthier way to go.From shutterstock.comYou’ve probably heard eating too much fatty red meat is bad for your...

the all-knowing narrator in Kim Scott's Taboo

View from a highway rest stop east of Ravensthorpe, Western Australia. In Kim Scott's Taboo, the landscape becomes a narrator.Chris Fithall/flickr, CC BYWhy do we tell stories, and how are...

Barry Humphries' humour is now history – that's the fate of topical, satirical comedy

Dame Edna Everage at Melbourne Town Hall in 2006 after being presented with the Key to the City. Simon Mossman/AAPLet’s face it, Thursday evenings on ABC television are not quite...

City temperatures and city economics, a hidden relationship between sun and wind and profits

Cairns Lagoon: as a good response to the tropical climate, it's a very active place but with little business activity.Silvia Tavares, Author providedUrban design undoubtedly influences the urban economy. A...

Children with autism may use memory differently. Understanding this could help us teach them

Some stereotypical behaviours of individuals with autism suggest they don’t use a certain type of memory in the same way others might.Annie Spratt/UnsplashAround one in every 70 Australians are on...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Cosmetic Physician, Dr. Phoebe Jones shares her expert tips on how to treat the most asked about skincare problemsYvonne Allen: How to improve your sex life in your relationshipThe Rug Lady Announces The Launch Of The Latest Saffia Rug Range7 Tips To Get Your Home Ready For WinterFuture-proofing your career prospectsYour Winter Hot Water System Guide for 2019Circulatory System Diseases and Risk FactorsEXYRA eyewearShould you get a hair transplant in Turkey if your hair is grey?Do You Need a Tummy Tuck or Just Liposuction?Best 4 Sassicaia Wine with Soothing Taste and AromaMarvelous Makeover - 5 Tips to Revitalize Your Look This SummerWhat to Expect When Recovering from Gynecomastia SurgeryClickClack Pantry Range | Helping Australians save time & moneyThe Gentleman’s Guide to Wearing Custom Ties