Lawyers for Assange made news Jan. 11 by saying their client could be "detained at Guantanamo Bay" or subject to the death penalty if he is extradited from Britain to Sweden, which could lead to extradition or "illegal rendition" to the U.S. The lawyers issued the statement, according to a Huffington Post report, as the WikiLeaks founder appeared in a U.K. court to schedule his extradition hearing for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
It's not just Assange and his attorneys who fear trumped-up charges against Assange. Critics in Sweden are saying that their government has been jeopardizing their country's hard-won reputation for political neutrality and human rights. In November, Sweden's parliament announced that it would probe U.S. embassy surveillance of Swedish citizens revealed by WikiLeaks and its media partners.
Political Prosecutions At Home and Abroad
The legal reform project I founded last year got its start investigating the kinds of political prosecutions that became notorious in the United States during the Bush administration in 2007. The scandal arose from revelations that the Justice Department purged nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons the previous year, an unprecedented mid-term event.
The conventional wisdom is that the prosecutions were a temporary aberration, perhaps encouraged out of partisan zeal by then-White House advisor Karl Rove before he resigned in mid-2007. But our research has concluded that political interference in the justice system is a serious, longstanding problem blighting both parties and largely ignored by such watchdog institutions as the traditional news media.
The probe of Assange on both sex and spy charges shows how political prosecutions dishonor other nations as well, and carry the potential for undermining web-based news distribution systems that currently provide one of best hopes for citizen oversight of government abuse of power.
Last week, our project published a Connecticut Watchdog column headlined, "Rove Suspected of Role In Swedish WikiLeaks Probe." Rove has long advised Sweden's governing Moderate Party and is well-positioned as a White House veteran to counsel leaders about the political and media dimensions on the capture of the nomadic Assange.
The column attracted widespread readership and follow-ups, including internationally, because of Rove's reputation. The column also attracted several conservative critics, who said Rove's statement on his website bio that he has advised Sweden's governing Moderate Party does not prove that he has advised Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt or his administration about WikiLeaks and that Rove and Bush are so disliked in Sweden that no major politician would risk the association.
Failing to receive a response from Rove for reaction, I hosted Jan. 6 one of his longtime friends, Timbro Media Institute Executive Director Roland P. Martinsson, on my "Washington Update" public affairs radio show. Martinsson, who heads Scandinavia's leading conservative, free-market think tank, called for Assange's arrest and said there's no evidence Rove is involved with Reinfeldt or WikiLeaks.
Prof. Brian Palmer of Uppsala University, a Reinfeldt biographer and a source for Reinfeldt's links to Rove, is the scheduled guest Jan. 13 on the show, which can be heard live at noon (ET) worldwide or by archive later on the My Technology Lawyer radio network. Listener and dial-in question information is available on the show's website.
What follow are other reports drawn from the public record about irregularities in the Assange prosecutions. The paint a picture suspiciously like the leaks and strange charges arising in some of the more infamous political prosecutions in the United States of recent years. But, as ever, this is only a step along the way in investigating what really happened.
The Accusers' Lawyer
Let's start with BodstrÃ¶m's bio from Wikipedia, which also provides the photo at top:
Thomas Lennart BodstrÃ¶m is a Swedish politician and member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He was the Swedish Minister for Justice in the two last succeeding governments of the Swedish Prime Minister GÃ¶ran Persson, from 2000 to 2006. Since October 2006 until October 2010 he was the chairman of the Riksdags committee for juridical issues....BodstrÃ¶m is the son of Lennart BodstrÃ¶m, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs 1982-1985 in the Olof Palme government. In his youth, however, Thomas BodstrÃ¶m was not involved in party politics. Instead, his first brush with media attention came as a football player... He took interest in international affairs and in 1999 he joined the board of the Swedish branch of the international organisation Lawyers Without Borders.
His role in the CIA rendition of two terror subjects in 2001 has become controversial in Sweden after United Nations and Swedish officials began issuing reports. For example, an English-language Swedish news organization called The Local reported in 2006, "Sweden broke torture ban during CIA deportation."
"Swedish officials just looked on while US agents mistreated Mohammad Alzery, along with fellow Eyptian Ahmed Agiza, at Stockholm's Bromma Airport," according to the news report. "This very serious indeed for Sweden," said Anna Wigenmark, a lawyer at human rights group the Swedish Helsinki Committee, who represented Alzery at the UN."