So, Swedish prosecutors have decided to re-open the ‘rape’ case against Julian Assange: https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/swedish-prosecutors-reopen-inquiry-into-rape-allegation-against-julian-assange/ – from Dagens Nyheter, but in English. Does this mean he will be tried in Sweden? Who makes that decision? I must say I’m a little surprised, in view of what I’ve been able to gather about the facts of the case: see https://bernardjporter.com/2015/01/09/julian-assange-and-the-european-arrest-warrant/, and the links there; and http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-assange-again.pdf. But of course I don’t have all the evidence, and the case against him may well turn out to be stronger than I suspect. If not, then his extradition and trial, carried out in the full glare of international press publicity, may not reflect well on the Swedish judicial system, and hence on Sweden’s reputation as a nation. (As a Swede myself now, I would regret this.)
On the other hand it is undoubtedly good news for Assange, who has always protested his innocence of the rape charges and his desire to prove it, and only resisted extradition to Sweden in the first place – it should be remembered – because Sweden would not guarantee his re-extradition to the USA on other, political charges. I wonder whether they’ll promise that this time? It always used to be a general and very proper principle of extradition law that it can’t be used to convey the extraditee to a third country. That was seen as an abuse.
It’s also good news for the British government, who in these ‘Me Too’ times will gain kudos from elevating sexual offences against women over the more controversial crime of political whistleblowing; and for liberals who are likely to trust the Swedish government more than the current American. So Britain can’t be accused of truckling to Trump. (Not on this occasion, anyway. Of course we still have his State visit in June to come.)
PS. I’m not altogether confident of the fairness of any trial Assange may stand in Sweden. I expressed my doubts about the Swedish legal system on this blog some years ago: https://bernardjporter.com/2015/01/09/julian-assange-and-the-european-arrest-warrant/. It’s not what Assange will have been used to, coming as he does from a country where – for a start – juries are required. They’re not in Sweden. And I’m not certain that the trial would need to be ‘public’, in our sense. In which case, in a high-profile case like his, the Swedish judicial process might well come under some adverse international scrutiny. This was one of the reasons why I originally thought the authorities might be content to let the case lie. But I imagine his defence team are aware of all this.