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The New Statesman must correct its error over Assange and extradition

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Cross-posted from The Guardian

The claim that Swedish courts, not government, have final say on extradition is a crucial mistake that distorts the Assange case


(updated below)

The New Statesman owes its readers a correction for a clear and crucial falsehood contained in this much-cited argument by its legal correspondent, David Allen Green. As I noted on Wednesday, Green purported to debunk what he called "common misconceptions" and "myths" being spread by supporters of Ecuador's asylum decision in the Assange case, but in doing so, he propagated his own myth on the key question in this matter. By doing so, he misled large numbers of readers not only at the New Statesman but in many other venues which cited his claims. Regardless of one's views on the asylum matter, nobody should want clear errors on the central issues to be left standing in major media outlets.

The falsehood here is clear and straightforward. One of the "myths" Green purported to debunk was that "Sweden should guarantee that there be no extradition to USA." Assange's lawyers, along with Ecuadorean officials, have repeatedly told Sweden and Britain that Assange would immediately travel to Stockholm to face these allegations if some type of satisfactory assurance against extradition to the US could be given. This is the paramount issue because it shows that it is not Assange and Ecuadorean officials -- but rather the Swedish and British governments -- who are preventing the sex assault allegations from being fairly and legally resolved as they should be.

But Green claimed that "[i]t would not be legally possible for Swedish government to give any guarantee about a future extradition, and nor would it have any binding effect on the Swedish legal system in the event of a future extradition request." He said that this is so in part because "any final word on an extradition would (quite properly) be with an independent Swedish court, and not the government giving the purported 'guarantee'." He then cited a British lawyer (notably, not a Swedish one) who made the same claim:

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