Labour's Emily Thornberry: Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face assault allegations
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face longstanding sexual assault allegations, Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry has said.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary said she was "disgusted" that a focus on American attempts to extradite Mr Assange over US military leaks had been allowed to "eclipse the cases" of two Swedish women who made allegations of sexual assault against him.
Her intervention comes after Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott angered some Labour MPs by calling on the Government to block any extradition request made against the Wikileaks founder, who was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London this week after a seven-year stay to avoid charges.
But Ms Thornberry told the BBC's Any Questions: "I think that what should happen is that he should be extradited to Sweden and then the Americans can make a further application to have him extradited from Sweden.
"And if he is to be extradited from Sweden then he... will be able to apply to the Swedish courts and indeed the British courts.
"He will be able to apply to the European Court of Human Rights and he will be able to make his case."
While Ms Thornberry warned that Mr Assange's ejection from the Ecuadorian embassy this week should not be used as a "a ruse to try to get him to be extradited to the United States" to be "tried as a whistleblower", she added: "My priority is those two women."
THORNBERRY: THEY DESERVE A DAY IN COURT
Mr Assange has always denied the assault allegations made against him in Sweden.
Swedish prosecutors dropped a rape investigation into the Wikileaks founder in 2017 because his presence in the Ecuadorian embassy meant they were unable to formally notify him of allegations.
Meanwhile two other charges of molestation and unlawful coercion were dropped in 2015 because the case had reached the statute of limitations, but prosecutors in Sweden this week confirmed they were re-examining one of the cases at the request of lawyers for the alleged rape victim.
Ms Thornberry said: "Whenever I see pictures of Julian Assange or hear about him I think of two women in Sweden.
"He'd only been there for a couple of weeks when he allegedly raped one of them and subjected the other one to a series of sexual assaults. And they went to the police and they complained.
"And he was brought in, he was questioned, they then wanted to investigate him some more. And he cleared off to Britain.
"And they then tried to get a warrant for his arrest and he fought that all the way through the Swedish courts to the very highest level.
"They then got a European Arrest Warrant. That was taken all the way through the courts, with the very best lawyers in Britain....
"It took two years and every single time he lost because every single time they said go back and face them. They deserve a day in court. They deserve justice."
LETTER: JUSTICE SHOULD BE DONE
Ms Thornberry's comments came as a cross-party group of more than 70 MPs and peers wrote a joint letter to Labour's Diane Abbott and Home Secretary Sajid Javid urging the UK to prioritise the Swedish cases.
The letter - coordinated by Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy - says: "We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the [Swedish] complainant should see justice be done."
Others who have put their name to the letter include former Conservative ministers Sam Gyimah and Nick Boles, Independent Group MPs Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, and Labour MPs including Pete Kyle and Stephen Kinnock. Liberal Democrat deputy Jo Swinson and the SNP's Alison Thewliss has also signed the joint call.
Mr Corbyn has said the Wikileaks founder is being targeted by America "for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan", while Ms Abbott has praised Mr Assange for exposing activities relating to “illegal war, mass murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale”.
But, speaking to the BBC's World at One on Friday, Labour's Diana Johnson said: “Jeremy [Corbyn] and Diane [Abbott] have to answer for themselves, but as a Labour MP, and talking to many other Labour MPs, we believe very strongly that Julian Assange should go through the criminal processes and Sweden."
The United States this week charged Mr Assange with involvement in a computer-hacking conspiracy, and accused him of overseeing "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States".
He was separately found guilty of breaching bail conditions at Westminster Magistrates Court in London and will be sentenced at a later date.