Assange must face Sweden charges: UK MPs

70 British MPs say Julian Assange must face any Swedish charges before he is extradited to the US.
70 British MPs say Julian Assange must face any Swedish charges before he is extradited to the US.

Seventy British MPs have urged the government to prioritise WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden if prosecutors reopen an investigation of an alleged rape there.

Stella Creasy of the opposition Labour Party said the group wanted to "stand with victims of sexual violence" amid concerns the Swedish case could be sidelined as the Conservative government focuses on a US extradition request for Assange.

Creasy, who organised an open letter from the group, urged British ministers to be "champions of action to ensure Julian Assange faces Swedish authorities and is extradited there if they so request".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News: "If there are allegations which Julian Assange needs to answer of sexual issues, sexual attacks that may or may not have taken place in Sweden, then it's a matter for the courts to decide.

"But I do think he should answer those questions.

"My objection was to his extradition to the United States because I do believe that WikiLeaks told us the truth about what was actually happening in Afghanistan and in Iraq."

The rape allegation came after Assange's visit to Sweden in 2010. He departed Sweden for Britain, and in 2012, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London after he lost a legal battle against extradition to Sweden amid fears he would be handed over to US authorities for WikiLeaks' publication of top secret US diplomatic cables.

Assange, an Australian, lived inside the embassy for seven years. But his relationship with his hosts became strained, and British police dragged the 47-year-old out of the building on Thursday after Quito revoked his asylum status.

The police initially charged Assange with breaching bail conditions linked to the Swedish extradition request.

The US Justice Department said later on Thursday it had charged Assange for conspiring with former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation of the rape allegation in 2017. The rape allegation has a limitation period which expires in August 2020.

Assange has always denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, a Swedish man with links to WikiLeaks who was arrested in Ecuador on Thursday remained in pre-trial detention on suspicion of planning a cyber attack, judicial authorities in Quito said on Saturday.

The 36-year-old man was arrested as he was attempting to leave on a flight to Japan. His bank accounts have been frozen and authorities have seized USB sticks and other devices from his flat.

The Swedish foreign ministry said on Saturday that it was aware of the man's arrest.

Spokeswoman Sofia Nahringbauer said "he has been offered consular assistance and has access to an attorney".

Nahringbauer had no information about why the man, who has lived for several years in Ecuador, was arrested.

The Swedish embassy in neighbouring Colombia was following the case, as was Sweden's consulate in Ecuador, she added.

Australian Associated Press