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Eva Joly press conference 27 March 2014 – Part one

Eva Joly MEP, former prosecutor, judge, and presidential candidate, now head of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Development, gave a press conference on the Assange case in Stockholm 27 March 2014. Also present was Jon Thorisson of the Eva Joly Institute in Iceland. Part one of two.

Thank you for coming. I think I should start by telling you where I am talking from. Why I am interested in this case. I think that the first reason is that I have been a judge and an investigator myself for some 25 years. I was first a prosecutor and I was then an investigating magistrate. And I have carried out, probably successfully, one of the most important financial investigations ever done in Europe. That was the ELF case that was done from 1994 until I ended it in 2002, and people were convicted in 2003. So this means that I am a practitioner, so I know how international cooperation works and how it does work from the inside. I have been working with it for years and I have been fighting with it. And I decided in 2002 to try to change the world from Norway. I worked in Norway for eight years on development issues and on anti-corruption issues and also to improve international cooperation.

And then I became an MEP – a Member of the European Parliament – in 2009, and that I did to fight, to continue to fight, corruption, money laundering, and to improve legal cooperation. And I am heading in the European Parliament the Committee on Development and Human Aid. I am heading the Committee on Support for Democracy. And I am involved in the reflection on the creation of a special prosecutor in Europe. Meaning that I am engaged in these issues for more than thirty years. So this is my background.

And so – why Julian Assange? One of the reasons is that I was impressed when WikiLeaks started up in 2006, by what they published, what we learned about the world that we are living in, and also because of hazards of life – when I was conducting the investigation into the banking crisis in Iceland in 2009 to 2011 I met with Julian Assange who was in Iceland in 2010. I think it was Spring 2010. And at that time there was a special atmosphere in Iceland because of the crisis they had been through, because of their democratic wakeup. How was it that the bankers could have driven them into bankruptcy and no one has seen anything. And you’ll remember there were new elections and a will to change a lot of things. And Julian Assange came up with the idea that we could make Iceland a safe haven for information. Because as journalists you will know that you cannot publish everything, that you are exposed to libel, and that if you are a UK journalist you are also exposed to injunctions, and to secret injunctions not to talk about certain subjects. And this idea got huge echo in Iceland. It was called the Modern Media Initiative. To make Iceland a place that is the contrary of a tax haven – a paradise for information. And this project is still ongoing, and Jon [Thorisson] who is with me is on the board of this project.

So this is how I met with Assange the first time. And then in 2010 – that was the same year – when I read about the Swedish story I was shocked and – how to say it – I trusted that the Swedish legal system, which is very robust and which has long democratic traditions – that they would find ways forward, and that they would be able to conduct this case within a reasonable time. And I went to see Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy a year ago. Just to have his news. And I saw how he lived – locked up in an embassy – a small space to live in, and I was then worried about his situation. And I started digging much more into it. And I thought something must happen this year, and nothing happened. And I went back to meet with him one month ago, and I found then that his appearance and his health situation had degraded from the year before. And then I decided that something must be done. We cannot go on with this situation that is locked. The arrest order, sent out by the Swedish prosecution authorities, was three and a half years ago. So what is important today is to have a new look on it.

We have a situation where we have legitimate interests on both sides. We have the situations of the victims, that must be taken care of. I do not have an opinion on the responsibilities of guilt – who is guilty and who is not guilty. That is not my purpose. What I want to see is that we must find a solution and I think I know the solution. The arrest order is three and a half years old. And everything goes on like the Swedish prosecution service does not take seriously that Ecuador has granted asylum. And that this asylum means that the danger that JA alleged as to the threat he faces regarding an extradition to the US is real – that is what it means. And if you read the newspapers and gather all the information that there is – there is tonnes of information that there is an ongoing investigation in the US into WikiLeaks, the founders of WikiLeaks and into JA himself and that they try to have him judged as an accomplice of terrorism and spying, espionage – rather than being a publisher of what other people are sending to his platform. And this is a threat to all the journalists in the world – if you are in possession of documents by a source and that is in the public interest, you could be called an accomplice of terrorism. I think this is not a world that we want.

And this situation was judged by Ecuador to be sufficiently serious to grant him asylum. So this I cannot see why JA should give up his human rights to ask for asylum in order to answer questions by the Swedish prosecutors here in Sweden. And we do not know what the prosecutors will do with the case and to take the risk of having an extradition order then coming to Sweden. And when I see that the prosecutor says “we know that he cannot be extradited” – I think they are talking about what they do not know. It’s none of their business. The prosecutor doesn’t have a word to say about the extradition. This is for the government to decide and then for the courts, but not for the prosecutor at this stage. And so I think here there are some misunderstandings, so we’ve taken into account that JA has the right to ask for asylum and that is a serious decision that the Swedish prosecution cannot just take [and say] “well I do not care about this, he should come here” and we have the [alleged] victims’ rights, their human rights to have their case tried. Because they also need to move on with their lives. They have been waiting for four years.

And then, in our common toolbox in Europe we have tools that do allow for international cooperation. It’s not a big deal. In the ELF case I went abroad to interrogate a suspect that had fled France, that didn’t want to come back, and I managed to interrogate him in Israel for instance, we had no convention but we made an ad hoc agreement with the authorities and this was done. We had the convention from 1959 of European cooperation and now we have a much better convention that is from 2000 that entered into force in 2005 (32:03) and which has modernised and made international cooperation much more efficient. And I can say that the UK was known for not cooperating easily but that has changed also. Today this cooperation is much easier. And I can [say] that because I didn’t stop doing investigating work in 2002 because I conducted, set up and I helped the Icelandic investigation into their banksters. And you know that today this is the only country in the world that is putting their bankers [before a] court and obtaining convictions.

And we used this new European convention and we obtained cooperation from Luxembourg which had a very bad record in legal international cooperation and the most important [inaudible – house search?] that were made in Luxembourg were made from Iceland. So these new tools are working. So why shouldn’t the Swedish prosecutor use the tools that are in the toolbox? This is not a special treatment for Julian Assange. This is for anybody who is abroad and who refuses to come back if you don’t use the arrest order. The arrest order – this is the bazooka. You use the cooperation [tools] to get this information. And then if we did that, then maybe later on it would be needed to make confrontations with the [alleged] victims and other witnesses, and I would say that this could be done by videoconference even if it’s not foreseen in the law book. This is done at the International Court of Justice when the witnesses are in danger, this is done on a daily basis in all the courts in Europe, and I did in my important cases in the nineties. It was not foreseen in the law book, but I did it in a creative way, making sure who the witness was, the date, and the Supreme Court accepted it. Today it is in the law books.

Things are not today like they used to be yesterday, and we cannot live only saying “I can’t do anything that I didn’t do yesterday”. You have to live with the modern tools that you have, and if Swedish law does not foresee it then the law should be changed. Maybe that could be changed in an urgent way, or judges can just do it and see what happens. I mean the Supreme Court could allow that. And then when the preliminary work is finished – interrogations, confrontations – then the decision can be taken: either there is a case to answer or there is not a case to answer.

Let’s take the scenario where there is a case to answer: then the Swedish prosecution service can send it to the Swedish courts, and Swedish law does not foresee in absentia judgments. But this we didn’t do in France either for serious crimes, but when we judged our former president, Jacques Chirac, he said “I’m too tired to come, but I want the court case to move on and I do accept to be judged in a [adversarial] way with my lawyers being present and I have told you everything I know”. And so it was done in spite of the fact that in the law book it was said that he should be present. And then you must remember – why does this rule exist? It exists because of the protection of the suspect, to ensure the [adversarial] process, and I [contend] that if the lawyers of Assange are present at the process and Julian Assange himself [participates] by link by Skype or video conference, this could be a good process and we would take care of all the interest of the interested parties: not sacrificing Julian Assange’s right to have asylum for the right of the [alleged] victims to have their case tried.

And if this solution is not agreeable to the Swedish prosecutors, they could use another tool in the toolbox that we have made because it is useful and that I have used myself – that is a delegation of the public action. They could send their files to Ecuador and ask Ecuadorean justice to take the case. So I thank you now – this is a way…

From a rush transcript by Justice for Assange. Part two coming soon.