Carr drops promise to raise Assange case

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has walked away from a written undertaking to raise the case of Julian Assange in discussions with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt next week.

Senator Carr's apparent decision to abandon consular advocacy for Mr Assange comes after the WikiLeaks publisher confirmed his plans to run as a Victorian Senate candidate in the September federal election.

Fairfax Media has obtained a copy of a letter Senator Carr wrote to Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam on February 8, advising that he intended to seek further diplomatic assurances from Mr Bildt concerning the possible prosecution of Mr Assange in Sweden.

However, Senator Carr's office has now stated that Mr Assange's case will not be on agenda when the two foreign ministers met in Canberra on Wednesday.

“There are no plans to discuss Mr Assange,” a spokesperson for Mr Carr told AAP yesterday.

Senator Ludlam last night said he “still sincerely hoped Foreign Minister Carr will be true to his written word and speak up on behalf of an Australian citizen."

For the past eight months the WikiLeaks publisher has been confined to Ecuador's London embassy. He has been granted political asylum by Ecuador on the grounds that he is at risk of extradition to the United States to face conspiracy or other charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining thousands of secret US military and diplomatic reports leaked by US Army soldier Bradley Manning.

British police are on guard outside the embassy 24 hours a day, waiting to arrest Mr Assange so he can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about sexual assault allegations. Mr Assange claims extradition to Sweden would facilitate his extradition to the United States.

Senator Ludlam wrote to Senator Carr on January 14, highlighting public comments by Swedish government representatives that could prejudice Mr Assange's prospects for a fair trial in Sweden.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Foreign Minister Bildt have both publicly attacked Mr Assange. Swedish Health and Social Affairs Minister Goran Hagglund responded to Ecuador's decision last August to grant the WikiLeaks publisher asylum with a public diatribe in which he condemned Mr Assange as "Sick. A coward who dare[s] not have his case tried by a court. If he had done what he is accused of, he is a wretch."

At that time Senator Carr said "Mr Hagglund's reported remarks are a matter for him."

However in response to Senator Ludlam's letter, the Foreign Minister indicated his intention to take the matter up with Mr Bildt.

“The Australian Government has on several occasions sought and subsequently received assurances from Swedish authorities that Mr Assange would receive due legal process in any proceedings against him in Sweden,” Senator Carr wrote on February 8.

“I would expect to renew our request for such assurances at my next meeting with my Swedish counterpart.”

The news that Mr Assange's case is no longer on the agenda for Senator Carr's discussions with Mr Bildt follows confirmation last week that Mr Assange intends to run for a Victorian Senate seat as the lead candidate for a new WikiLeaks Party at the September 14 federal election.

Writing in his Thoughtlines political blog in February last year, then retired former New South Wales premier Carr was highly critical of the Swedish prosecutorial process levied against Mr Assange.

“The Swedish judge is prosecutor … yes, the two roles in the one officer, an outrage by Australian standards,” Mr Carr wrote. “The charge includes rape but the sex was consensual. The victims have exchanged emails talking revenge and money.”

Senator Carr promptly distanced himself from these and other comments once he was appointed Foreign Minister, saying that they were the views of a private individual and did not necessarily reflect the positions he would adopt as a member of the Federal Labor Government.”

This story Carr drops promise to raise Assange case first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.