Cambodia helps squeeze
WikiLeaks By Justine Drennan
PHNOM PENH - Earlier this week, Swedish
national Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was deported from
Cambodia to Thailand under the escort of Swedish
officials who then forced him to board a plane to
From his arrest in Phnom Penh two
weeks ago up until Tuesday, Cambodian and Swedish
authorities remained tight-lipped, saying only
that Svartholm Warg was arrested for copyright
infringement as a co-founder of major online
file-sharing site, Pirate Bay.
Svartholm Warg arrived in Sweden, it became clear
to his associates that he had been brought home
for reasons beyond his one-year prison sentence
and multi-million dollar fine for Pirate Bay's
activities and that he could face charges related
to his association with
whistleblower website WikiLeaks. He was also
charged on arrival with hacking tax records.
"At the airport, the government told him
he is suspected of committing a crime, and he had
no lawyer present," said Niklas Femerstrand, a
friend of Svartholm Warg's in Cambodia who
received the news from Peter Sunde, a Pirate Bay
Svartholm Warg was then taken
into custody by national prison authorities,
according to Bertil Olofsson, head of the Swedish
National Police's international section.
Later on Tuesday, Sweden's Prosecution
Office announced on its website that a man
arrested in Cambodia, who had been internationally
wanted to serve a prison sentence for involvement
in Pirate Bay, had been arrested by Swedish
prosecutors on suspicion of hacking.
announcement confirmed online rumors that Sweden
wanted Svartholm Warg home at least in part
because of his alleged involvement in a hack of
Logica, an IT company contracted by the Swedish
Tax Board. The hack is believed to have caused the
leak of 9,000 Swedish tax numbers on a public
website this past spring.
and Sunde's bigger fear is that Svartholm Warg
will be charged as part of a wider international
crackdown on WikiLeaks, Femerstrand said.
Svartholm Warg at one point allegedly helped host
the WikiLeaks site so that its files could be
accessible on the web. Svartholm Warg is also
rumored to be personally associated with Julian
Assange, founder and promoter of WikiLeaks.
crackdown Assange's current international
legal troubles, including sexual assault charges
in Sweden he has maintained were trumped up to
target WikiLeaks, resonate with Svartholm Warg's.
So do those of Kim Dotcom, whose file-sharing site
Megaupload was shut down in January when he was
arrested for copyright violation in New Zealand.
The US is pushing to extradite Dotcom from
New Zealand for copyright infringement. Assange is
concerned that he might face extradition from
Sweden to the US in relation to his release of
classified US government documents, should the
United Kingdom extract Assange from the Ecuadorian
embassy in London and send him to answer the
Swedish sexual assault charges.
online commentators see US pressure on Cambodia
and Sweden behind Svartholm Warg's arrest and
deportation. They have cited US Trade
Representative Ron Kirk's presence in Cambodia on
the day of his arrest and WikiLeaked US cables
that suggest US influence behind a 2006 Swedish
crackdown on Pirate Bay. The US embassy in Phnom
Penh would neither confirm nor deny these
Blaming the US has not stopped
supporters of Svartholm Warg from also condemning
the two governments directly involved in his
deportation. In retaliation for Cambodia's
decision, "hacktivist" groups Anonymous and
NullCrew have announced that they have hacked into
several Cambodian institutions, including the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cambodian army,
the Institute of Standards, the general taxation
department, and the Ministry of Public Works, and
have leaked information from their sites online.
The groups have stated that they are also
targeting Sweden to express solidarity with
Svartholm Warg and Assange.
factors While Sweden and allegedly the US
have security reasons for Svartholm Warg's
deportation and for withholding information about
its details, Cambodia's role in the crackdown
could be more financial than legal.
Cambodia's decision to deport Svartholm
Warg notably coincided with Sweden's signing of a
400 million Swedish kronor (US$60.6 million)
development aid agreement with Cambodia last week.
Swedish officials denied a connection between the
events, with Kristina Kuhnel, head of Sweden's
development cooperation in Cambodia, stating that
the aid package was decided upon in March and only
signed now due to delay on Cambodia's side.
This would not be the first example of
Cambodia receiving cash in return for
deportations. Immediately after Cambodia agreed to
deport 20 Uyghur asylum seekers to China in April
2010, China pledged Cambodia more than US$1.2
billion in aid and a few weeks later pledged an
additional US$14 million to replace US military
aid suspended in protest against the deportations.
Money may also help to explain why
Cambodia shelters many foreign fugitives from the
law, including known sex offenders and pedophiles,
but chooses to deport men like Svartholm Warg.
Cambodia dragged its feet for years before
recently yielding to Russia's request to deport
notorious alleged pedophile Alexander Trofimov, a
wealthy investor in Cambodia. Trofimov had
previously received a Cambodian royal pardon that
allowed him to remain free in the country.
In June, Cambodia finally sent Trofimov to
South Korea, where Russian authorities escorted
him onto a Russia-bound plane. But many details
behind the decision to finally deport Trofimov
Svartholm Warg's arrest
and deportation has underlined Cambodia's opaque
approach to international transfers of
individuals, which often serves the interests of
pursuing and cooperating governments without
ensuring due process for the individuals.
With evasiveness reminiscent of the July
transfer of French architect Patrick Devillers
from Cambodia to China in relation to the case of
Gu Kailai and the death in China of UK businessman
Neil Heywood, Cambodian authorities offered few
details about Svartholm Warg's arrest before he
In both cases, Cambodia's
decision against formal extradition made secrecy
easier. Cambodia often chooses options other than
extradition because it requires an involved legal
process, including the wanted person's option to
appeal against the decision in court, said
executive director of the Cambodian Center for
Human Rights, Ou Virak.
Though the details
remain murky, Devillers officially ended up going
to China of his own free will to provide
information in the Heywood murder case. He has
since returned to Cambodia. With Svartholm Warg,
the Cambodian government opted for deportation,
saying that his visa had expired on the day of his
lines Cambodian and Swedish authorities
blurred the lines between deportation and
extradition to limit Svartholm Warg's legal
options, said Cambodian lawyer and Cambodian
Defenders Project executive director Sok Sam Oeun.
The deportation process did not allow
Svartholm Warg legal counsel. Authorities also
failed to inform him that under deportation, as
opposed to extradition, he could choose where to
go upon leaving Cambodia, Sam Oeun said.
Sam Oeun became personally involved in the
case when he and Femerstrand went to the Swedish
embassy to investigate Svartholm Warg's detention
and were given a non-response by the Swedish
"If it's deportation, he
should be able to go anywhere," Sam Oeun said just
before Svartholm Warg was escorted from Cambodia.
"He doesn't want to go to Sweden."
Russian authorities' escort of Trofimov onto a
Russia-bound plane to South Korea, it is unclear
whether it was legal for Swedish authorities to
force Svartholm Warg onto the waiting plane in
Bangkok. Sweden legally would have had to receive
Thailand's permission for the transfer, according
to Cambridge University professor of international
law Markus Gehring.
Given the obfuscation
that surrounds such deportations, it was not
surprising that Swedish police and Thai Ministry
of Foreign Affairs staff were unable to say
whether these negotiations had occurred.
Justine Drennan is a journalist
currently living in Phnom Penh. She can be reached
at [email protected]
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