Swedish prosecutors destroyed copies of email correspondence related to the extradition case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi.
The documents were destroyed while Maurizi was litigating her freedom of information request, making it “highly suspicious.”
Maurizi uncovered this major revelation during a hearing in her lawsuit against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the United Kingdom, the very agency that is representing the United States in its effort to bring Assange to trial on Espionage Act charges.
So far, both CPS and the Swedish Prosecution Authority have blocked the release of any documents between UK authorities and US authorities or Swedish authorities and US authorities.
In particular, the correspondence stems from the time period, where Assange was faced with extradition as part of a Swedish investigation into sexual assault allegations.
“From 2010 to 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Swedish Prosecution Authority exchanged between 7,200 and 9,600 pages of correspondence,” Maurizi reported for the Italian daily newspaper il Fatto Quotidiano.
“Over the last 8 years of our FOIA battle, we have obtained just 551 pages from the CPS and 1373 pages from the SPA,” Maurizi added. “Of these, 1373 pages of documents from the SPA, only 310 pages represent correspondence between the SPA and CPS. Which means we have barely obtained the tip of the iceberg.”
Hiding FBI Correspondence
Maurizi also reported, Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny deleted an email from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in March 2017. The Swedish Administrative Court of Appeal confirmed it was sent by an FBI executive and “reached a chief prosecutor.”
The appeals court peculiarly claimed an FBI executive sought information that Swedish prosecutors told the FBI was available on the SPA’s website.
Maurizi chronicles her effort to obtain documents in Secret Power: WikiLeaks and Its Enemies. She said in an interview for The Dissenter, “Why did the Swedish prosecutor destroy this correspondence with the FBI?” And what else did they destroy? “Because they claim there was no further correspondence, but how can we believe them?”
Up until the latest proceeding, the Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) had denied that such correspondence between Swedish prosecutors and US authorities existed.
In 2015, Maurizi obtained a small number of documents from Swedish prosecutors in response to her freedom of information request that exposed how Paul Close, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime Division, had advised prosecutors in Sweden not to question Assange while he was living under political asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London.
As Maurizi puts it, the division that was responsible for prosecuting high-profile cases advised Swedish prosecutors “against the only legal strategy that could have brought the case to a rapid resolution.”
Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader who is part of a powerful faction that purged Jeremy Corbyn and other left-leaning Labour Party members from leadership positions, led the CPS Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013.
“Critical decisions and advice on the Julian Assange case were provided by the Crown Prosecution Service between 2010 and 2013, when it was headed by Keir Starmer,” Maurizi declared. “What role, if any, did Starmer play in the case?
The truth may never be known. Back in 2015, Maurizi “discovered that the Crown Prosecution Service had deleted all data associated with Paul Close’s email account, which cannot be recovered.”
The UK judge presiding over the freedom of information litigation, according to Maurizi, said “there was nothing untoward,” and would not order an investigation into CPS’s destruction of documents.
Human rights attorney Michael Ratner, who represented WikiLeaks until he died in 2016, maintained from 2012 to 2016, “If Julian Assange were to go to Sweden, he would be put in jail immediately. He is not allowed to get bail in Sweden. Let’s understand that. He would be in prison in Sweden, and he could no longer apply for asylum.”
“At that point, the US files its extradition request. Julian Assange never sees the light of day and winds up going to the United States.”
The destruction—and concealing—of documents by Swedish prosecutors appears to further demonstrate how correct Ratner was in his advice to Assange to seek political asylum from Ecuador and not go to Sweden for questioning.
‘In Cahoots’ With Nils Melzer
Since 2017, Maurizi has been fighting in court for documents. She said this hearing was the first time a Crown prosecutor chose to question her.
“[The prosecutor tried] to put me in a light that I was basically in cahoots with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer,” Maurizi recalled.
British authorities maintain the correspondence should only be released while the extradition case is still unfolding if it would reveal “serious misconduct” committed by the state requesting Assange. Maurizi’s lawyer Estelle Dehon argued that is clearly the case and referred to the evidence that Melzer compiled.
This evidence was laid out for the world in Melzer’s acclaimed book, The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution.
“At this point, the Crown Prosecution Service tried to make the argument that Nils Melzer is biased, and of course, is in contact with Maurizi, with me, because he endorsed my book. In his endorsement, he said that my investigative work contributed to his investigation,” Maurizi said.
This is not the first time Crown prosecutors have tried to diminish the credibility of individuals who may undermine their effort to secure Assange’s extradition.
During a month-long extradition trial in September 2020, Crown prosecutor James Lewis QC sought to discredit the assessments of psychiatrist Michael Kopelman by accusing him of relying on Melzer’s work, which he maintained was “neither balanced nor accurate.”
Even more bizarre is the fact that Maurizi’s attorney asked the Crown Prosecution Service’s head of extradition if they were involved “directly in the extradition of Assange.” They claimed they were not part of any “operative” decision-making and then described Maurizi’s book as “very powerful and moving.”
Maurizi wondered, why has the Crown Prosecution Service proceeded with the case if the head of extradition finds my book to be moving?
Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars In Legal Fees
In the US, Maurizi’s attorney is representing her pro bono in her freedom of information case against the US State Department. “They told me that our legal fees have reached hundreds of thousands of dollars in two years.”
“They use all sorts of delay tactics and obstruction in order to make the process as expensive as possible, as long as possible,” Maurizi described. “So that, even if you win, you obtain this documentation after years and years, and maybe, sometimes it’s still relevant.”
Maurizi reminded readers that the “highly anomalous handling of the Swedish case by prosecutor Marianne Ny resulted in justice for no one, contributed to the devastation of Assange’s health, cost British taxpayers at least 13.2 million pounds [$16 million] to keep the Ecuadorian embassy under siege by Scotland Yard from 2012 to 2015.”
It also “resulted in the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention decision that Sweden and the United Kingdom had arbitrarily detained Assange since 2010, in the case of Sweden the first time the UN Group had ever made such a decision in the country’s history.”
Below is a 35-minute interview with Stefania Maurizi for The Dissenter:
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