Leading world figures, including the distinguished American academic Noam Chomsky, British filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist and free speech campaigner John Pilger, have attacked the move to extradite the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden as they fear it could be a prelude to him being handed over to the Americans, who want to prosecute him for publishing classified documents.
Sweden is seeking Mr. Assange's extradition over allegations of sexual assault brought by two Swedish women but he has challenged the proceedings and Britain's Supreme Court is to hear his appeal next month.
In a statement on Monday, signed by more than 70 others including the former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, they said: “We are concerned that should Mr. Assange be placed in Swedish custody, he will be subject to the process of ‘temporary surrender' enabling his removal to the United States without the appropriate legal processes that accompany normal extradition cases.”
Arguing that the chances of Mr. Assange receiving a fair trial in the U.S. appeared “remote”, they said: “A number of prominent [U.S.] political figures have called for him to be assassinated, and Joe Biden, the Vice-President, has called him a ‘high-tech terrorist'. Given this atmosphere of hostility, we hold serious concerns about his safety in American custody.”
The signatories pointed out that any prosecution of Mr. Assange in the U.S. would be “on the basis of his activities as a journalist and editor — Mr. Assange's status as such has been recently confirmed by the High Court in England”. “Such a prosecution would be a serious assault on freedom of speech and the need for an unfettered, independent media,” said the statement, published in The Daily Telegraph.