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extradition hearing

Assange defence team wrong on European arrest warrant?

Published torsdag 14 juli 2011 kl 15.26
"It is the exclusive right of the prosecutor"
(4:28 min)
Photo: Sang Tan/Scanpix

London's High Court has now heard the arguments from both sides, and is now to decide whether Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face suspicions of sex crimes here. A judgement is expected next month, but one of the arguments used by the Wikileaks founder's defence team is that the European arrest warrant issued by Sweden is faulty, they claim it has been issued too early in the legal proceedings and by the wrong person, and could therefore be invalid.

The European arrest warrant is an agreement between member states of the European Union, making it easier for countries to extradite suspects across national borders. Julian Assange's lawyers claim it has been wrongly used in this high-profile case.

However, Christoffer Wong, a lecturer in criminal law at Lund University in southern Sweden, and expert on the European arrest warrant, says that Assange's UK lawyers may just be unware of the Swedish legal system.

Speaking to Radio Sweden, Wong says that unlike systems in England and the US, for example, in the Swedish legal system charges are pressed late in the day, when a succesful conviction is seen as likely.

"The word 'prosecute' means different things in different languages and different legal systems", he says, "In many countries, such as England and the US, they can on a very low degree of suspicion actually charge somebody and put them in front of a grand jury or something like that, and they would then go through with the investigation after they have charged the person. But in Sweden we have another system, the whole process of prosecution actually means that you make the investigation and you make someone a suspect, give them all the rights of a suspect, but you don't actually charge the person until you actually get enough evidence that you think that you would get a conviction. So the idea in Sweden is that you formally prosecute at a quite late stage of the proceedings, in other countries you do that at the beginning", Christoffer Wong says.

Wong also adds that the defence argument that the public prosecutor in Sweden does not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant is also wrong.

"In Sweden there is no doubt that it is the prosecutor who issues the arrest warrant, it is actually the exclusive right of the prosecutor", he says, "a judge cannot do that".

The key factor is that the issuing body has the judicial authority, he says.

"You must have looked at the case... and as long as you have the judicial function, you are the proper authority, and if you look at the Swedish system, the prosecutor's arrest warrant is based on a decision of the court to remand the person in custody. So although it's the prosecutor who makes the actual decision, who actually issues arrest warrants, before he makes that decision, there has already been a hearing before that, by a court, by a judge."

Wong adds that looking at European and British case law, the chances of Assange's appeal succeeding are "very low", but adds that the case could then be passed on to the English Supreme Court.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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