WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden [Hannah McKay/Reuters]
More than 70 British members of parliament have signed a letter urging the home secretary to ensure that WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden if a case there is reopened against him.
The letter, signed late on Friday by mostly Labour Party MPs, urged UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “stand with the victims of sexual violence” and ensure the rape claim against him can be “properly investigated”.
“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done,” it said.
The 47-year-old Australian activist was arrested by British police on Thursday and forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after his asylum was revoked, bringing to an end more than six years in the building.
Assange originally sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wanted to question him over a rape allegation, which he denied.
Sweden suspended its investigation of serious sexual misconduct two years ago because Assange was beyond their reach while at the embassy.
But on Friday, Swedish prosecutors said they were examining the rape case at the request of the alleged victim’s lawyer.
British Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said it was right that he should face justice if charges are brought.
“If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges, I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system,” said Abbott, who added that the arrest was politically motivated as WikiLeaks has published enormous tranches of sensitive military information.
“We all know what this is about. It’s not the rape charges, serious as they are, it’s about WikiLeaks. All that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military that was made public and that is what it is about.”
The move by British MPs to push for Assange’s extradition to Sweden came hours after the Labour Party called on the government to halt his extradition to the United States, where he has been charged with offences related to his work with whistle-blower Chelsea Manning.
Abbott said Prime Minister Theresa May should intervene as she did in the case of British hacker Gary McKinnon, whose extradition request she rejected on medical grounds in 2012.
But May has shown no desire to interfere with the US’s wishes this time. She welcomed the arrest in Parliament on Thursday, where Sajid Javid, the current home secretary, accused Labour of supporting a man with “a track record of undermining the UK and our allies and the values we stand for”.
US prosecutors say Assange faces five years in prison if convicted of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion”, though further charges are expected to be brought against him.
Abbott’s comments followed a post on Twitter by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday that praised Assange’s exposing of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and said that his extradition to the US “should be opposed by the British government”.