The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted to deleting potentially crucial emails relating to attempts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy.
An email exchange between the CPS and their Swedish counterparts, who were pursuing rape charges against Assange, was deleted in 2014 after a lawyer from the UK side retired.
The CPS, who said the deletion was standard procedure, has denied any legal implications from the supposed error, though they admitted, in comment given to the Guardian, that “We have no way of knowing the content of email accounts once they have been deleted.”
The newspaper reported that the CPS lawyer in question also advised his Swedish counterparts against visiting London in 2010 or 2011 to interview Assange. The revelations came ahead of a tribunal hearing relating to information held by the CPS on WikiLeaks founder.
Prof. Mads Andenas, the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo, says this latest development with the deletion of correspondence “adds to the litany of abuses which have taken place in this case.”
“On the one hand, technically there is probably some truth in what they say about the general routines, but there’s absolutely no credibility to the claim that there’s no copy,” he told RT.
Commenting on whether it’s likely that these emails could have a significant impact on Assange’s case, he said:
“They do show that from what I’ve heard is very close to, if not crossing the threshold for misfeasance, it is disloyal to the legal system, it leaves us, who follow this case, with very little confidence in the rule of law. And it is clearly a breach of duty to indicate something like what we now expect was, or we are pretty sure was requested.”
Sweden dropped the investigation into Assange in May, leading to suggestions that he might leave the sanctuary of the embassy, though he subsequently declined to do so. Assange fears that the US, which has been investigating him since 2010, will seek to extradite the WikiLeaks founder from the UK should he leave the embassy.
The Justice Department is seeking Assange chiefly over the publishing of more than a quarter of a million classified US embassy cables leaked by Chelsea Manning. Despite being accused of aiding Donald Trump’s election through the leaking of Hillary Clinton’s emails, charges against Assange were noted as a “priority” for the US, by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
The revelations were disclosed after Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, a reporter on La Repubblica, pursued a freedom of information (FOI) case against the CPS.
In 2015, journalist uncovered, using another FOI request, an email from a CPS lawyer to Swedish prosecutors, dated January 25 2011, reading: “My earlier advice remains, that in my view it would not be prudent for the Swedish authorities to try to interview the defendant in the UK.”
Maurizi is pursuing further FOI requests related to Assange and, unhappy at their lack of progress, is taking her case against the CPS to an information tribunal next week, according to the Guardian.