If the Ecuadorian government awards the WikiLeaks founder diplomatic status and enables him to leave Britain, he will be the only person who has ever outwitted a European Arrest Warrant – writes MEP
The latest twist in the Julian Assange story did not entirely surprise me. Last year, I discussed his appeal with him. Having been involved with a number of European Arrest Warrant cases I was not confident he stood much chance of winning. To my knowledge, not a single EAW request for a British citizen has been refused by the courts. Indeed, United Kingdom courts have no real power to do so.
I suggested to Assange that he might consider applying for political asylum in the UK. This is a tactic one of my constituents has used already. Dr Meizoso, a Spanish citizen who has lived in London for many years, faces extradition to Spain on an EAW; not to face charges for something he is alleged to have done but for something he might possibly do in the future. I kid you not. Dr Meizoso argues that his case is politically motivated and he has sought asylum, on that basis he has successfully resisted extradition to date.
Extradition has now been reduced to a mere bureaucratic formality. It is no longer even properly called extradition, but rather 'judicial surrender'. The European Union framework decision that brought the Extradition Act 2003 into being is founded on the fiction of 'mutual recognition', which treats all EU member states' legal systems as if they are of equal status. This is part of the great project to create a borderless European political state and extradition from one region of that state to another should not be impeded.
Under the EAW, all the requesting state has to do is to correctly fill in the request form that gives minimal details of the identity of the person concerned and to state any one of the 32 categories of crime it includes, some of which are vague and not even recognised crimes under English law. No evidence against the accused person needs to be presented to the British court granting extradition. Indeed, they have no right or power to consider the prima facie evidence - or lack of it - and no real power to refuse surrender.
What many people fail to realise is that continental legal systems are fundamentally different from the English common law system. Under English law, the crime is investigated and evidence gathered before the accused is charged and taken to a court - subject to Habeas Corpus. There is a clear separation between the investigators of the crime and the courts that try them.
Continental legal systems are completely different. An investigating magistrate may decide to detain a suspect on mere accusations while the case is being investigated. The suspect may languish in prison for weeks or months while the case is investigated. The suspect eventually may or may not be charged. If they are, the examining magistrates may even try the case. As in Assange's case, it is not necessary for charges to have been laid. British citizens may be surrendered to a foreign jurisdiction for investigation only.
But the English courts are supposed to be there to protect the innocent as much as convict the guilty. This brings us back to Assange. As a politician, I do not take a view on his guilt or innocence regarding the allegations of sex crimes against him. But given the background to the case, one would have to be very naive not to consider the possibility that there may be darker political forces at work.
The English extradition court, the appeal courts, and the Supreme Court itself have no power to consider the prima facie evidence against Assange - and whether it constitutes a proper case to answer in Sweden or not. I have supported Assange because of the principle that no one should be extradited to a foreign country on that basis. It is Assange today, like him or not, but it could be any one of us tomorrow. If that happens, you will quickly find that the English courts are powerless to protect you - even if it is obvious a grave injustice is being done.
It remains to be seen if his flight to the Ecuadorian Embassy was done on impulse or if there is a plan behind it. Does the Ecuadorian government intend to award him diplomatic status and enable him to leave Britain under the impotent noses of the British authorities? If that happens, he will be the only person who has ever outwitted a European Arrest Warrant. I wish him good luck. Gerard Batten is a United Kingdom Independence Party MEP for London and author of Freedom, security and justice - or the creation of an EU police state