Interpol Issues Julian Assange Arrest Warrant
The Feds famously got notorious mobster Al Capone on tax evasion charges. Will WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be done in by sex crimes?
The Guardian reports (“WikiLeaks: Interpol issues wanted notice for Julian Assange“) that:
The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is tonight facing growing legal problems around the world, with the US announcing that it was investigating whether he had violated its espionage laws.
Assange’s details were also added to Interpol’s worldwide wanted list. Dated 30 November, the entry reads: “sex crimes” and says the warrant has been issued by the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden. “If you have any information contact your national or local police.” It reads: “Wanted: Assange, Julian Paul,” and gives his birthplace as Townsville, Australia.
According to the Washington Post, no charges against anyone from WikiLeaks are imminent. But asked how the US could prosecute Assange, a non-US citizen, Holder struck an ominous note. “Let me be clear. This is not sabre-rattling,” he said, vowing to swiftly “close the gaps” in current US legislation.
But Assange’s most pressing headache is Sweden. Swedish prosecutors have issued an international and European arrest warrant (EAW) for him in connection with rape allegations, and the warrant has been upheld by a Swedish appeal court. Assange strongly denies any wrongdoing but admits having unprotected but consensual encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August. Mark Stephens, his London-based lawyer, has described the allegations as “false and without basis”, adding that they amount to persecution as part of a cynical smear campaign.
Nonetheless, the Swedes appear determined to force Assange back to Sweden for questioning. Stockholm’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said last month: “So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation.”
Assange contests this too. But if he declines to return to Sweden voluntarily, and the UK decides to enforce Sweden’s arrest warrant, things may get tricky. Some friends believe Assange’s best strategy is not to go to ground but to get on a plane to Sweden and face down his accusers.
Stephens, moreover, says that the Swedish attempts to extradite Assange have no legal force. So far he has not been charged, Stephens says – an essential precondition for a valid European arrest warrant.
Wired (“Interpol Issues ‘Red Notice’ for Arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange“) has additional background:
A Red Notice is kind of international wanted poster seeking the provisional arrest of a fugitive, with an eye towards extradition to the nation that issued the underlying arrest warrant. Interpol transmits the notices to its 188 member countries, including Britain, where Assange is believed to be located. Interpol has no authority to compel a subject’s arrest. It issued 5,020 Red Notice last year for a variety of crimes.
A terse extract of Assange’s notice appeared on Interpol’s website Tuesday, without a photograph, reporting that the 39-year-old Australian is wanted for “sex crimes” by the International Public Prosecution Office in Gothenburg, Sweden.
A Swedish judge on Nov. 18 ordered Assange “detained in absentia” to answer questions in a rape, coercion and molestation investigation in Stockholm. A court approved an international arrest warrant for the ex-hacker two days later, at which point Sweden reportedly applied to Interpol for the Red Notice. Assange’s lawyer appealed the detention order to the Svea Court of Appeal, but lost. Assange filed a new appeal Tuesday to the Swedish Supreme Court.
The investigation stems from separate encounters Assange had with two women during his August visit to Sweden, where he was applying for Swedish residency and attempting to secure the protection of Swedish free-press laws for his secret-spilling website. According to local news reports, the women told investigators the sexual encounters began as consensual, but turned non-consensual. One woman said Assange ignored her appeals to stop when the condom broke.
Volokh Conspirator David Kopel adds legal clarification:
While some in the media have reported that Interpol itself issued an arrest warrant, that claim is not precisely accurate. Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, has no law enforcement powers, and thus cannot issue warrants. Rather, Interpol’s purpose is to share information among different national police agencies, subject to whatever restrictions the originating agency wishes to impose. (For example, the United States does not allow Iran, Cuba, Sudan, or Syria to access fingerprints which it has provided to Interpol.) Interpol also provides expert forensic or investigative services, such as bomb scene analysis, when requested by police agencies.
As I detail in the monograph I am writing on Interpol, when a nation (here, Sweden) requests Interpol to issue a Red Notice, the nation affirms that there is, in that nation, a valid arrest warrant or court order for that person, and that the nation will seek extradition of the person if he is apprehended. Before Interpol publishes the Red Notice, Interpol staff review the application to ensure that there really is a validly-issued arrest warrant or court order, and that publication of the Red Notice would not drag Interpol into political, military, religious, or racial issues, which are forbidden by Article 3 of Interpol’s Constitution.
Countries make their own decisions about how to treat a Red Notice. Some countries treat a Red Notice as an actionable request for an arrest; the United States does not. In 2008, Interpol published 3,126 Red Notices.
I have no knowledge about Assange’s sex life beyond those detailed above and wish I didn’t know that much. It is worth noting, however, that Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange back in August and then promptly withdrew the charges the same day. As I wrote at the time, “while I view Assange as substantially lower than pond scum, this story is incredibly murky. While I’m happy to see him discredited and silenced, bogus rape charges are beyond the pale.” Neither opinion has changed.