Questions and Answers
Questions to Lead Prosecutor Marianne Ny
Question: What we have heard many times is that Mr Assange is more than willing to be interviewed at the Embassy in London. You are saying today that the Ecuadorian Embassy is not giving a time frame. Who are we to believe? We hear from both sides that everyone is ready, and still there is no date set.
Answer: As I’ve said in fact negotiations have been taking place and agreement has been reached with the Ecuadorian government. We have issued a new request for legal assistance and had a very brief response from the Ecuadorian government which had no details about the conditions and we have heard nothing more since then and that I am afraid is all I can tell you today.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] The question was that Mr Assange has in fact said that he is prepared to make himself available for a telephone interview. Would that not be a better process than allowing an Ecuadorian prosecutor to interview Mr Assange in London?
Answer: And the response was that as the Prosecution Agency in Sweden is subject to the regulations under which Swedish official agencies have to comply with and therefore it is impossible to go outside the boundaries of Sweden to exercise the powers that are granted to the agency and the quality of a telephone interview is hardly likely to be high enough to make it possible to in fact proceed with the investigation.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] The question is from SvD in Sweden: What do you feel about the effect on the quality of the interview at the fact that six years have transpired since the offences were committed? Is that not going to have a greater impact on the quality of the material than the deterioration that would result from a telephone interview?
Answer: As I said before, the phone interview was not an option and I won’t go into details. But coming back to your first question, obviously the quality would deteriorate, however, this is the only possible option we have at hand right now. And even a phone interview would need the permission of Ecuador and the UK. So therefore we are doing the best out of the situation and the best option here is that the interview is conducted by a professional Ecuadorian prosecutor, which is preferred over a phone interview.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] If the Ecuadorian government does not permit the Swedish authorities to be present at the interview, are they prepared anyway to accept the fact that the Ecuadorians can carry out the interview and send the results?
Answer: We have asked Ecuador to conduct the measure and we envision that the measure will be conducted in the way most suitable for Ecuador.
Question: I submitted a comprehensive Freedom of Information request to the Swedish Prosecution Authorities, Scotland Yard and the UK Crown Prosecution Authorities. I got very few documents actually. Scotland Yard and the UK Crown Prosecution Authorities totally rejected my FOIA, I have no idea why. But what I learned from the Swedish documents, from the Swedish Prosecution Authorities is that Mr Assange has made himself available since 2010 for an interview. So it’s quite a different picture that you have. Why have you said different?
Answer: Mr Assange hasn’t made himself available which follows from the proceedings in the Swedish courts and also if you read the decision from the Westminster District Court you would see that they find that he didn’t make himself available.
Question: But documents show that he made himself available through his lawyer, the lawyer contacted you and you refused or rejected.
Answer: I will not start a debate with you about that is true and not true, but I would like to refer you to the statements and presentations made by the Swedish Prosecutor’s Authority to the Swedish courts and I’d also like to refer you to the decision of the Westminster District Court.
Question: [FOLLOW UP BY SAME QUESTIONER] Documents are documents.
Question: You just mentioned that you thought that Julian Assange had not been treated differently to anyone else. I think it’s quite clear just in the brief chat you have had now that there are a number of ways. For example, he has been named. There is a whole section on your website on his case. The press were tipped off when he was actually going to be attempting to come back to Sweden to be interviewed. The press were there ready and there were people waiting to arrest him. The press were also tipped off about the trip you’ve mentioned to the UK. On that trip, just three days after you had sent the request, when you had no agreement with Ecuador for this. So I just want to understand how you can justify the claim that you are treating him like anyone else.
Answer: We didn’t offer Mr Assange special treatment in terms of how we conducted the investigation and I don’t want to go into details about considerations we made. However, it is very unfortunate that the information about Mr Assange was disclosed by an individual unknown to me at this stage. This shouldn’t have happened but it has happened and this was unfortunate. This case has attracted a lot of attention from the media we tried to respond to the attention for example through our webpage, which includes the steps we take in relation to a number of cases, high profile cases which attract attention from the media. It is also the case that Mr Assange and his lawyer has made a number of public statements and it would be ridiculous on the part of the Prosecution Authority to pretend that the case is not about Mr Assange.
Question: You are making those statements after violating his rights.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] The question very briefly is, we began this press conference with you saying that you didn’t have anything new to tell us, which is odd for us as journalists. But anyway I have two questions I would like to ask:
The first one is how far has this press conference been prompted by the fact that this evening Uppdrag gransknin airs tonight is likely to present more information about the case? Secondly, where is the funding coming from to arrange this press conference? Has anything to do with fact that the TV program is impending? My question is that who decided?
Answer: During the summer we noticed that there were a number of questions in the media, although as you have noticed there isn’t much more to tell about the case we felt that there is a need to call this press conference, but as you can see unfortunately we don’t have too much to offer. When it comes to Uppdrag gransknin, we have given an interview to the program and we have called this conference in order to respond to the interest from the different media outlets so that people can ask the questions that they would like to ask. And when it comes to who has made the decision, this was done by us together - myself, [deputy prosecutor] Ingrid Isgren and the head of the information department. As far as the program is concerned, I have no idea whether there will be any kind of revelations, but we had been discussing this over the summer and this seemed the best kind of time to have it. But as we decided we were going to have the conference, when heard from Uppdrag gransknin, we decided to give them an interview, and we carried on deciding a suitable date for this meeting, which we had already decided. And they got 30 minutes, whereas you’re getting 90 minutes instead.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] If you look back on the process now, is there any reason why you should be critical of yourselves. Could there have been any possibility of bringing the process forward more rapidly?
Answer: No we made the decisions as we made them at the time they were being made on the grounds that then existed. Looking back, of course, it may have been possible there could’ve been other procedures that would’ve led to other outcomes but in fact we followed the routines that we adopted and I don’t think so.
Question: [Asked in Swedish and translated] The quality is very important, as you have said - so what is your position on the quality assurance if the interview is conducted by another prosecutor and if you are not allowed to be present?
Answer: Obviously it’s a loss of quality if someone else rather than of our investigator with the good knowledge of the case and a good understanding of the general picture is allowed to conduct the interview and if the interview is conducted by someone else. This will obviously lead to a loss in quality. And our goal has been for a long time that our own investigator would conduct the interview. But considering the situation and considering how much time has passed we feel that the only viable option to get some progress in the investigation is to conduct the interview in this manner.
Question: The second part of the question is what will happen if you are not allowed to be present?
Answer: This is something we will accept.
Question: What will happen?
Answer: What will is what will normally happens when you require legal assistance from another state. The state to which the request has been sent the request will conduct the measure and they will present their findings in a written report.
Question: A follow up question is whether you would be satisfied by this report?
Answer: I cannot assess the results of the measures before the measure has been taken.
Exchange with Deputy prosecutor Ingrid Isgren
Question: ..to press charges in this case and a formal indictment if you are not able to interview Julian Assange?
Answer: We will not be able to formally indict Mr Assange if we are not able to interview him.
Question: Do you think that perhaps his reluctance to be interviewed is perhaps because of this?
Answer: I don’t know.
Question: How would you respond to the UN who says your office has acted without diligence. The United Nations.
Answer: The only comment is that this was not the position of the Swedish Court.
Question: The Swedish court did say that while they did uphold the warrant, they criticized how you have handled this case. Marianne finally decided after so many years to finally question Mr Assange.
Answer: Which of the UN statements are you referring to? I thought you were referring to the statement made this spring?
Question: The UN made a decision officially made, not a statement, that should be binding under International law. Then I referred, because you tried to say Sweden didn’t say that, but then I referred to the Court of Appeal in Sweden that actually did make those comments as well.
Answer: Right, but the decision passed by the UN was passed after the Swedish Court of Appeal. So the decision by the Court of Appeal was made before the decision was passed by the UN. So therefore we started the procedure with asking Ecuador for legal assistance and trying to arrange for an interview in the UK prior to the decision made by the UN.
Question: Okay, so therefore presumably the UN made similar sorts of judgements in decision because it was still taking you quite some time. I mean, for example, one of the requests put into Ecuador you had penciled and scribbled things out et cetera, I mean that is not exactly what most people would assume was the correct way to petition a country to come onto their soil and question people they have given asylum to.
Answer: Our petition to Ecuador was taken from a computer and I don’t know where the information about the pencils and scribbled out et cetera, I don’t know where that comes from.
Question: This is about the fact that Julian Assange made himself not available for interviews, but documents released by your office makes this very clear, we published them, these are official documents released to me and my news magazine Espresso via the Freedom of Information Act. In these documents its very clear that Assange has made himself available since 2010 through his lawyers. Why are you saying that he didn’t make himself available?
Answer: I became the Assistant Head of the Investigation in April/May 2013 so I cannot provide you any answers about what happen prior to when I was appointed.
Question: Documents make these clear, and go back to 2010 and cover until my FOIA request which was done in 2015. These documents cover 5 years, I have a set of released by you officially, and these documents make clear that even he promptly accepted to be questioned in April 2015. But basically your office asked at the last minute so Ecuador wasn’ able to provide assistant. The Ecuadorian Ambassador learned about your request 12 June 2017, and the interview was meant to be held on 7 June 2015. So at the very last minute.
Answer: Excuse me, which is your question?
Question: My question is why the Swedish Prosecution Authorities keep saying that he didn’t make himself available, when document says different things basically, and those are official documents from your office.
Answer: There are several questions in one, so to speak. Our statement is that he didn’t make himself available for interview in 2010. And he has not been in Sweden ever since and therefore he wasn’t available for interviews, which is the basis for the decision made by the courts that there is a risk of him evading legal proceedings.
Question: I’m sorry that is just quite incorrect. He actually stayed in Sweden for several weeks asking to be questioned. He was then given permission to leave. He then tried to organise to come back, was given guarantees he wouldn’t be put into arrested immediately, and then people were waiting to arrest him. So obviously he has some concerns that the prosecution service will not do what they say.
Answer: As I said before, I was appointed the assistant head of investigation in Spring 2013 so I have no details of information that transpired before that. But I’d like to refer you to the documents, particularly the decisions by the English court, which makes it clear that Mr Assange didn’t make himself available.
---- New audio file
Continued exchange with Deputy Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren
Answer: No contact whatsoever.
Question: Is it justified that he might be extradited to the US?
Answer: I have no knowledge about that.
Question: Can you make any assurances that if he did come here to expedite the process for this question that he would not in fact be extradited to the US?
Answer: No, this is an issue for the Swedish government if this would happen.
Question: As was said earlier today, 3 of the 4 issues have already expired under the statute of limitation and there is one left. Like you said, 10 years, but a few of those years have passed already. We have been hearing from lawyers saying that because of the passivity of this case maybe its just eventually going to be dropped. So do you think these changes exist considering how slowly and continuously this has been going on with sides accusing each other instead of moving forward.
Answer: We cannot state what will happen until we have had the opportunity to interview Mr Assange and this is what we are waiting for right now
Question: As I have said, I have filed many, many comprehensive FOIA. One was to the UK Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard basically denied me any document, and they said we looked for the document about the alleged sexual crime case in the counter terrorism Headquarters. Why in the counter terrorism Headquarters if this is a sex crime case?
Answer: I have no idea.
Exchange with Lead Prosecutor Marianne Ny
Answer: We have reached a point where we can’t take any further measures before we have arranged an interview with Mr. Assange.
Question: It is now 6 years since you issued an arrest warrant, why hasn’t he been questioned before?
Answer: The whole point of a European Arrest Warrant in fact is that the person requested is going to be transferred to the country that has issued the warrant, for instance to guarantee the security of the investigation. Also, if it is decided to press charges, he or she will be available for the prosecution.
Answer: I can’t really say very much about deportation because I’m not an expert and this is in fact a matter for the government. What I can say is that if Mr Assange is deported to Sweden and then a request is issued by the United States, first of all the United Kingdom government must also give its permission, if it is a deportation order for a crime in which deportation from Sweden is permitted.
Question: Are you in contact at all with the alleged victim in this case and has she expressed any opinion about continuing or dropping the investigation?
Answer: But sexual crimes in Sweden in fact are subject to a general requirement for prosecution, whether or not the plaintiff or the victim would like the prosecution to take place is not a matter of interest. I am in fact in contact with the counsel for the complainant and also the defence counsel. I answer their questions.
Question: What happens to this case if you are not able to conduct an interview with Assange in London in any form?
Answer: I don’t want to speculate on that issue.
Question: Could it eventually be dropped, considering three of the four allegations have expired. Would that be a reason to drop the case?
Answer: It’s correct as you say, that the accusation of rape will be subject to the statute of limitations by 2020.
Question: So what happens then, in four years?
Answer: In Sweden the statute of limitations says that the investigation then has to be terminated. We don’t in Sweden have the same statute of limitations as in England where a Swedish au pair who was raped there 23 years ago recently saw her rapist convicted.
Question: So the case would be dropped eventually if proceedings don’t move forward?
Answer: The answer is yes. If the statute of limitations takes effect then the investigation will be terminated. And the question of whether the investigation could possibly be terminated before that date is something that I cannot answer today.
Question: To clarify that would expire in 2020? You said the statue of limitation is 10 years, does that expire in 2020?
Answer: That’s correct.
Question: Are you aware of the information that is coming out in the report tonight and is there anything in that report that is inaccurate in your mind?
Answer: I can’t make a statement about that today.
Question: Has the United Nations ruling that Julian is arbitrarily detained, the reason it is arbitrary detention is your lack of due diligence in the investigation has resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty. Has that affected the way that you are treating this case, has that influenced your decision to now be trying to question him? In the same way that your own courts, as you said in the press conference, said similar complaints about how you have handled this case.
Answer: That was the Svea Court of Appeal.
Question: Yes. Having admitted to that I wondered if the United Nations ruling had also..?
Answer: When the United Nations Working Groups and its 3 members of the Working Group issued their report, then in fact the question of the proportionality of the investigation was taken up and heard in the Stockholm City Court. They found that this was not the case and that the actions were proportional and it has since been subject to the Svea Court of Appeals hearings. We are waiting now for the decision of the Svea Court of Appeal.
Question: Which will come on Friday?
Answer: The decision we will get on Friday will be a decision if the court decides there will be an oral hearing in this case. If they decide there is not going to be an oral hearing, we will then be told of the date when the remand order will be decided on.
Question: I think your response to me was a little bit unfair. You implied the United Nations were incorrect, however, you had actually changed your action because of criticism you have got. When you are talking about the Supreme Court, they were concerned about the question of proportionality, they wrote to the Prosecutor General about this and then coincidentally or I would suggest not, four days later is when you said you would come. So you have actually changed your tactic.
Answer: There is a major difference between rulings made by a United Nations Working Group and rulings which are issued by a Swedish court. And rulings which are issued by a Swedish court mean that I, as a prosecutor, are subject to them and bound by them. And I must say in fact here that normally Swedish government and Swedish public agencies will listen to things said by international organs such as the United Nations, but when it comes to UN Working Groups ruling that in fact Julian Assange was subject to unlawful deprivation of liberty because he was the Ecuadorian Embassy, I can merely say this is not a ruling that has any kind of legal force.
Question: So you are happy to ignore the findings of the United Nations which say it is based on binding international law.
Answer: I can’t answer that question. All I can do is refer you to the Swedish government’s response to the report that was submitted. This is not a question you can pose to a prosecutor.
Question: If I look at the documents I obtained from your office thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, it is evident the role played by the UK Crown Prosecution service in advising you against questioning Julian Assange in London. If you look at the internal email exchange with you by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Swedish Prosecution Authorities, you realise that the Crown Prosecution is hardly a neutral player in this case.
Answer: I’d like to comment on what you have already said. But what I can say in fact is that of course there is of course cooperation between the Crown Prosecution Service and the Swedish Prosecution Authority, but the question of the interview with Mr Assange was in fact raised by Mr Assange’s defence counsel in January 2011 and I was in contact with my counterpart in the UK but before that contact took place I had already made my decision on the matter. And I had responded and given the defence counsel an answer to his request.
Question: They are definitely against questioning Mr Julian Assange in London. There is no doubt about this, they put it in their emails in every possible form. Do you have any criticism about how the UK authorities advised you?
Answer: I have got no criticism to express of my colleagues in the United Kingdom. I must say as well that when the decision was made to not hold an interview in January 2011, was a decision that I made and I made alone. Of course I informed my colleagues in the United Kingdom of what was going on. It’s a very complicated case. There has been a great deal of correspondence. The documents have been extremely long in many cases, so I have kept them informed of what has been happening.
Question: To clarify, the last allegation standing is non aggravated rape. What does that mean and what kind of sentence does it attract under Swedish law?
Answer: What it means in fact is that there is an accusation of rape but there are circumstances surrounding it which means that the court has not come to a decision that it is necessarily a serious offence as rape would normally be. It is a maximum of 6 years imprisonment. [NOTE: this is disingenuous. The prosecutor is not referring to the ’lesser degree rape’ allegation against Mr. Assange, but rather to the crime of standard "rape". Lesser degree ’rape’ has a maximum theoretical sentence of four years, even though the prosecutor admits that this type of case would carry a sentence of 18 months -2 years if charged, tried and convicted. He has already been detained without charge for six years.]
Question: Do you agree with the court’s assessment that it is a less aggravated form of rape?
Answer: No, I in fact said it was a normal case of rape but I am accepting the ruling which the court has issued.
Question: If the sentence is 6 years, Julian Assange is now in his 5th, if eventually this interview that we have been talking about so much today, does take place, would the years he has already spent in the Ecuadorian embassy, if he does end up staying there for 6 years, does that influence this case wrapping up?
Answer: I must point out already that the Court of Appeal in Sweden and also the Supreme Court, have stated that the time Mr Assange has spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy is not going to be counted as time he spent in prison. It will not be counted in his favour. I should also point out that the maximum sentence for a normal rape case in Sweden is 6 years imprisonment, in cases like this it would possibly be between 18 months and 2 years.
Question: Who actually has made this accusation? Because the alleged victim said the police had railroaded her, didn’t sign the police statement and in fact the first prosecutor on the case dropped it saying that no crime had been committed? That was the prosecutor of Stockholm, and then you took it up again.
Answer: But I am her superior, in fact, I am the Senior Prosecutor. I can in fact reverse the decision of one of my subordinates. I came to the conclusion that her decision in fact was erroneous. When it comes to the question of who made the accusation, I have already said this, rape is subject to obligatory prosecution in Sweden. You don’t need a complainant to sign a complaint or make a charge. If rape comes to the knowledge of the police authorities in Sweden, they are obliged to prosecute, that means they are obliged to refer the case to a prosecutor, a prosecutor has to look into it, and then it follows the normal course of law.
Question: To be clear in this case, there is no victim that has made an allegation that you are following through with.
Answer: There are injured parties who have in fact given the police information which gives reason to suspect that a crime has been committed. As it has been said that there were a number of procedural errors committed at the beginning of this case, we have looked very carefully to see how it was dealt with to see if any errors were committed.
Question: Here we have a man who has serious legitimate security concerns, don’t you agree Mr Assange is not a matter of special treatment, it is a matter of legitimate security concerns. Or do you have doubt that the US is not after him? I think we can agree that the US is after Mr Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. So why isn’t Sweden willing to address this concern?
Answer: Whether or not he has well grounded concerns for security is not something I can make a statement about as a Prosecutor. But this in fact has been tried in court on a number of occasions, and they have come to the same conclusions that I did, there are in fact no grounds for Mr. Assange to have concerns for his security. Sorry, I correct that, I can’t make any statement about whether he has any well grounded fears for his security, but what the court have found is that there is no grounds for suspecting that his security is under threat.
Question: So he is mad is he? He is inside one room
This is not something we can go on discussing.