SYDNEY: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was unlikely to be extradited from Sweden to the United States if there was a risk of the death penalty or a military court, Australia's foreign minister said Wednesday.
British authorities won their case to extradite Assange to Sweden to face sex assault allegations, but because he sought asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London they have so far been unable to send him there.
Supporters of the 41-year-old Australian believe that if sent to Sweden, Assange could be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage over WikiLeaks’ publication of a vast horde of sensitive US papers.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australia could not get involved in cases outside its jurisdiction but that Stockholm had indicated the former hacker was unlikely to be sent to the United States.
“It's not a subject for Australian diplomacy, it’s a subject for consular support,” he told the Australian Financial Review.
“We have sought assurances from Sweden (that) due processes will be accorded.And the Swedes have said they don’t extradite anyone if there’s a capital offence or it’s a matter to do with military or intelligence.”
WikiLeaks has urged Sweden to guarantee it will not extradite Assange to the US, where he fears being pursued over the organisation’s release of thousands of sensitive files, including on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stockholm has received no extradition request from Washington and Swedish justice ministry advisor Per Hedvall has indicated that it was up to Washington to give Assange the guarantees he sought.
Hedvall has refused to speak about the Australian’s case in particular and stressed his remarks regarded Swedish legislation in general, but said Tuesday that any guarantees had to come from the state requesting the extradition.
Swedish law and the European human rights convention ratified by Sweden ban the extradition of a defendant to a country where they could face the death penalty.
Washington has said it has had nothing to do with efforts by Britain to extradite Assange to Sweden, and Tuesday denied Assange’s “wild assertions” it had launched a witch-hunt for him.