Eva Joly MEP, former prosecutor, judge, and presidential candidate, now head of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Development, gave a press conference on the Assange case in Stockholm 27 March 2014. Also present was Jon Thorisson of the Eva Joly Institute in Iceland. Part two of two. See part one here.
Q: Just to clarify that you say that the case could be tried in Ecuadorean courts?
EJ: It can be. And then one more element and then I'll stop talking and I'll leave the floor to you. We also have agreements for serving the sentence. If he was judged in Sweden, and he was convicted to imprisonment, he can serve his sentence elsewhere. All this is possible. I have seen from the debate here in Sweden that most people did not believe in the reality of the danger that Assange was exposed to. I think that it's paramount today that there is a debate in Swedish society, because the world has really changed with Snowden. With what Snowden tells us about the general surveillance of all of us, and also more specifically about Assange. And I am sure you know this [in] TV interview he said on German television - he said that Assange is on a manhunting list.
And you might remember that eminent members of the [US] Senate have asked for Assange to be tried for spying, for terrorism, I am thinking about Dianne Feinstein who said that. And this is not a nobody. She is a very important member of the American senate and I do recommend you to read her speech held in the Senate some two weeks ago where she told the world and also Swedish journalists that the CIA and also the American agencies are not playing by the rules. And that they have gone into the computers in the Senate and that they have suppressed some photos and pages about the CIA not respecting the rules. And I think we have difficulties in understanding how much the world has changed with all the information that we got from Assange and from Snowden. And I think it is an urgency that this situation that is a bleeding wound and I think it is not good for anybody, and there are means to solve it taking into account the interests of all the parties. Thank you.
Q: Can you tell us about your attempts to discuss this with the relevant Swedish officials, especially the prosecutor in charge and the chief prosecutor?
EJ: It's very easy to tell: I have asked to meet with the Minister of Justice, with the Chief Prosecutor, and with Marianne Ny, and nobody wants to meet with me. And I am wondering why. I am an honourable person.
Q: Have you encountered that sort of blasé reaction anywhere else? Is this unusual?
EJ: Normally when I as a member of the European Parliament, a head of a Committee, in charge of 59 billion euro/year ask for an appointment: I get it.
Q: Do you draw any conclusions from this?
EJ: That this is a very difficult question, and in a way, that I am here in my own quality. Nobody is paying me. I'm using my own time. And I hope, European money. This is a European issue. It is a European issue. It shows that we need better cooperation. If we cannot solve this problem between England and Sweden - how do we think that we can solve problems with Afghanistan, or Turkey, or a lot of other countries. I also forgot to tell you that I am working in Afghanistan and that I am not at all an anti-militaristic person. I went to a military school. I did the Institute of Superior Military Studies in France. And I am working in Afghanistan as an anti-corruption person. I was appointed by the UN and I am working very closely with Americans who risk their lives and I have sensitivity to all these questions.
Q: How would you describe your personal relationship to Mr Assange? Are you a personal friend of his?
EJ: It was inexistent until - this is totally transparent, I want to be totally transparent - I met with him the first time in Iceland. And I felt that we had common views on how damaging secrecy is to the world. Because I spent my life fighting against tax havens. Seeing how criminal many banks are - how they are stealing, how they are allowing themselves to take a huge percentage of the produced value every year - this was my fight. And I also met... because I met a journalist, because I follow cases in Africa - for instance the Trafigura case with the - what was the name of the boat - Probokwala (?) I think - this went to Ivory Coast and spread a lot of toxic waste there. I followed it because I was interested. And all of a sudden the Guardian stopped talking about it. And then they went to the British parliament to ask a question because you have immunity in the House of Commons. And they had a question that they asked in Parliament about Trafigura. And then we learned that there was a secret injunction for all the press to talk about this case. So I was very sensitive to the idea of making Iceland a safe haven for information. So this was... he was sympathetic to me. And then when I learned about this story here in Sweden I was - as everybody else - shocked. And I wanted this to be investigated and I hoped in the bottom of my heart that he would be cleared. But I was not sure - you cannot be sure - so what I am saying is that this case should come to an end.
Q: But you would not describe Assange as a friend, a personal friend of yours?
EJ: No. I am not. I am not. I mean - there is a generational problem. I know that I am looking very young and beautiful, but I am seventy years old and he is forty I think.
Q: Are you in any way optimistic that the Swedish investigators could change their mind?
EJ: What I am optimistic about is you. I think that you will understand. And that you will write articles that will make the public opinion understand that this is not a Swedish issue. That this is an international issue.
Q: But you know that the prosecutors have already disregarded the idea of a video link? The question has been [raised] before.
EJ: Yes, but I do not like situations where the will of one person can stop a whole process. I like when there are appeals. And I think there is not such a thing as "This is what I want to do and this is how it shall be". This is not democratic.
Q: You are referring to Marianne Ny?
EJ: Yes, well - she had the right to conduct the case the way she wanted for four years. It has gone nowhere.
JT: She also has a responsibility to contribute to a solution. If her current policy is not working and the case is not moving forward, she has an obligation. Because in the end it is a human rights issue that everybody involved in the case has a right to a satisfactory conclusion to the case. And it's not just Assange but it's also the two girls.
EJ: That is article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
JT: And repeating the same solution and expecting different results is not working.
EJ: What I do expect is the head of the Swedish prosecution should take the case himself.
She had the right to conduct the case the way she wanted for four years. It has gone nowhere.
Q: Have you discussed this at all with Assange's Swedish lawyers?
EJ: No, I haven't met with the Swedish lawyers. I am not Assange's lawyer. I am talking from my own platform, with my thirty years of experience in this business, and seeing it from many angles. I could have met with his lawyers. They will give you their version. I am giving you a version of a Member of the European Parliament that is sensitive to human rights. If you look me up you will also see that I am defending Basmah Belaid - the widow of Mr Belaid who was killed in Tunisia. In the same way, talking about the importance of getting the case to court. Maybe one day I will become a lawyer but I am still a parliamentarian. I am running for a second term because I want the issue of a European prosecutor to move forward.
Q: How would this new prosecutor touch upon this case?
EJ: What would a European prosecutor do with this? In the first stage - and we will take 5 years to get there - the EU prosecutor would only have the power to take care of the economic interests of the Union, so this would not be his case. But I think in a second [phase] we should have a prosecutor that can take care of transnational criminality and prosecutions. But I think we are very far away until we have a unique prosecutor.
Q: It's not yet established that the two women are 'victims', it's probably not right to call them 'victims' but 'alleged victims'.
EJ: Alleged victims, you are right. Because we have the presumption of innocence, which means that Julian Assange is innocent until he is convicted, if and when.
I do not like situations where the will of one person can stop a whole process.
Q: The other thing is that a Supreme Court judge in Sweden has himself said that there is no impediment to the prosecutor traveling to the UK, so there is no legal impediment, even under Swedish law.
EJ: I know that and that's what I wanted to come and say with strength, from a practical point of view, and I think that it is not acceptable for the interests here, and also for the reputation of Sweden, that a case can be stopped because of prestige - there should be ways to go forward. And if they do not exist, the law should be amended.
Q: As far as I know, it's not clear what the public opinion is about this. I don't know of any systematic opinion poll. Does anyone here? Because the press here has been very skewed.
EJ: I think it's very important to get the facts on the table. Because the discussion, unless people are aware of what has happened, of [Time's] correspondent [Michael Grunwald] saying in Autumn 2013 "I cannot wait to have to justify the drone attack that took Julian Assange away". It's very violent.
JT: And another thing that we've been trying to point out is that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are a publishing organisation. They haven't leaked anything. They have taken information leaked from other sources and published it. So for you guys as journalists, this is a really important question because this is the criminalisation of journalism. The way he has been treated and the WikiLeaks organisation and now people associated with Snowden and I mean - Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's partner who was apprehended at the airport in London and his computers taken and it's done under the UK anti-terrorism legislation. So it's a very important distinction. This is what the Americans are trying to do and Chelsea Manning's American lawyer said that he had the feeling that he had two defendants - one was Manning and the other was Julian Assange. Because they tried everything they could to throw [Assange] into Manning's case and in the closing statements of the Manning case in the US they mentioned Assange's name twenty-six times, just in the closing statements. So what they are trying to do is to establish a conspiracy between WikiLeaks and...
[Unstructured discussion] Person A: That's a distinction that they are trying to make that WikiLeaks is not a passive recipient of leaks but has incited them...
EJ: That is what they want to show...
Person B: Really, is that proven?
Person A: No, that's what they are trying to say.
Q: About your suggestion, have you discussed that with the Ecuadorean authorities?
EJ: I think that was in a way premature. We needed first to obtain from the Swedish prosecution authorities that they are willing to go there, and because Ecuador has given Julian Assange asylum, I think we can anticipate that they will not oppose. But we are in British territory, we need their cooperation and we need it first. And then we need the cooperation of the Ecuadorean authorities.
Q: What if they say no?
EJ: The UK has a duty to cooperate, if they are asked, as per the convention that I have referred to.
EJ: They are, and they are spending four million dollars - or pounds - to guard the embassy. So this is also absurd, isn't it? An absurd use of money, and time that goes by. Okay. So now I think it's important that the debate takes place.