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Judges slammed for Assange stance

Published 17/04/2015

Julian Assange has been confined to Ecuador's Embassy for almost three years
Julian Assange has been confined to Ecuador's Embassy for almost three years

Julian Assange's lawyer has attacked judges for withdrawing from a legal conference because the WikiLeaks founder was taking part.

Mr Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost three years, spoke by video link to the conference in Glasgow.

He has been granted political asylum by Ecuador after he sought refuge inside the embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex allegations, which he denies.

He fears that if he goes to Sweden he will be transported to the United States and face arrest over the activities of the whistle-blowing website.

A number of ju dges from Scotland, England and Wales and the UK Supreme Court withdrew from the conference, in some cases after arriving at the venue, when they found out about Mr Assange's appearance.

Representatives of the judges said it would have been inappropriate for them to have attended, because of Mr Assange's legal status.

Lawyer Michael Ratner said: " The boycott by judges of England, Wales and Scotland of the Commonwealth Law Conference because Julian Assange was appearing on a panel seriously undermines rights to free speech and information guaranteed under both UK and international law.

"Judges would be expected to uphold the right of free expression, not call for censorship. But, in pressuring a conference not to host WikiLeaks publisher Assange in a panel about surveillance, they have engaged in a forceful act of censorship.

"Mr Assange has an absolute right under both British law, and international law, to apply for asylum. To call Assange, who has been granted asylum, a 'fugitive from justice' denigrates his right to seek protection from persecution. Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum because of an ongoing and unprecedented criminal investigation against WikiLeaks and Assange by the United States for publishing true information in the public interest.

"According to these judges, every political refugee is a fugitive from justice. Judges have a duty to remain impartial, and to avoid descending into the political fray.

"The exceptional and prejudicial treatment of Assange once again exposes the political dimension of his case."

Swedish prosecutors have now agreed to question Mr Assange inside the embassy in London.

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