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Swedish Court Bars Assange Extradition to Face Sexual Assault Investigation

A Swedish court ruled 3 June that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to to face a renewed sexual assault investigation. In response to the ruling, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority has indicated that they will apply for a European Investigation Order in order to question Assange in London where he is imprisoned and fighting attempts by the US to bring him to be prosecuted for publishing material disclosed by whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The ruling by the Uppsala District Court does not mean the preliminary investigation is being abandoned, but was seen as a victory for Assange, whose health is said to be deteriorating while in jail.

Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, said she hadn’t decided whether to appeal, the Associated Press reported, but that she would seek a European Investigation Order to interview Assange in London.

Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, Per E. Samuelsson, said his client would be happy to learn he is not facing the immediate prospect of extradition to Sweden but was not sure if he would be able to notify him in good time. Assange is unable to receive phone calls in Belmarsh and is locked in his cell for 23 hours every day.

The Uppsala court agreed with prosecutors that Assange could pose a flight risk, but said that detention would not be proportionate.

The Swedish investigation was dropped in 2017, during the seven year period Assange spent in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy where he was granted asylum in order to protect against a US prosecution for his publishing activities. When Assange’s asylum was revoked in April and British police allowed in to arrest him, Sweden decided to reopen their investigation, which dates from 2010.

The US is seeking Assange’s extradition in order to face charges of violating the 1917 Espionage Act by publishing a series of disclosures from whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a former of Blueprint’s Enduring Impact Award, in 2010 and 2011. The unprecedented indictment of a publisher for espionage has generated horror among editorial boards and free expression organisations on both sides of the Atlantic. The New York Times Editorial Board has warned that the US prosecution of Assange is “aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment.”

Last week, Assange missed a court date because of ill health. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and ill treatment, Nils Melzer, has said Assange is showing signs of psychological torture and rebuked Britain, Sweden and the United States for “ganging up” on him.

Assange has denied wrongdoing in the Swedish matter and asserts that the incidents under investigation were consensual.

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