WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange, accused of harassment and facing a reopened investigation into rape charges, has sacked his lawyer Leif Silberksy, and hopes to be represented by Bjorn Hurtig, another high-profile defender.
Assange told Crikey he still has not been informed of alleged “new information” that the prosecution service claims led to the reopening of rape investigations. The prosecution service is due to make an announcement next week, and the court has to approve Assange’s change of legal team.
Assange’s move comes as fallout continues from a piece on US website The Daily Beast, alleging that the accusations against Assange are causing conflict within the WikiLeaks organisation, centred on Icelandic MP Birgit Jonsdottir’s statements that Assange should take a less-visible profile in the WikiLeaks organisation.
However, as reported by Luke Miller in Crikey yesterday, Jonsdottir alleges that she was selectively quoted to give the impression that she gave more credence to the allegations against Assange than is the case. Jonsdottir has also expressed doubts as to the veracity of the unnamed “insiders” quoted in the Daily Beast article, commenting: “I do not know who WikiLeaks insiders are but feel they should step forward and show some transparency themselves.”
Swedish director of prosecutions Marianne Ny has released no further information about the case. However, Assange told Crikey this week that he is still yet to be presented with any specific accusations about rape:
I have been asked nothing about [accusations of] “rapes” ever, at any stage. All this is running entirely without my input. I have not even seen the statements.
He also clarified his position on the involvement of other forces, in an interview with TV4 Sweden:
I said very clearly what we knew, which was that on the 11th we received a warning, and that this was a smear because it is not true … That doesn’t mean that intelligence agencies are behind this, nor does it mean they are not behind it, nor does it mean once this has happened, for other reasons, that they are not capitalising on it.
In the absence of any further statements by the prosecution service, the two women accusers, or their lawyer Claes Borgstrom, the rumours continue to swirl.
Increasingly, attention has been focused on the role of Anna Ardin, the more visible of the two complainants. Her apparent mix of establishment cred, together with her varied activist/political career radical feminist, Christian social democrat, ambitious political intern seems to flummox non-Swedish commentators, who don’t understand that that is an establishment career in Sweden.
Ardin has not only worked as an intern in the Swedish foreign affairs department, including a tour of DC and Cuba (from which she was allegedly deported), but has also interned on the op-ed page of the Gothenburg afternoon paper GT, part of the Expressen stable, owned by the right-wing Bonnier family (yep, Sweden has right-wingers).
It was to the relentlessly anti-left Expressen that the story of the initial charges of rape against Assange were released (a breach of Swedish law), in the small window of time before they were rescinded by a higher prosecutor.
Were there accusations of violent rape involved in this case, I’d be a lot more circumspect about reporting some of this, but it seems no one is asserting physical coercion. So here goes: two separate sources from the Swedish left have told me that they regard Ardin as more than a little over-the-top, and subject to some compelling obsessions. Another source said he was pretty sure of the identity of SW, the other complainant, and that some people had held suspicions about her bona fides as a member of the left.
So, all to be taken on advisement. But in assessing the possibility that more is going on than lerv gone wrong, one has to bear in mind that Sweden is a conflicted establishment; the Social Democrat party that has run it for decades has actively opposed US foreign policy in Vietnam, Chile and a hundred other places, and stayed out of NATO.
But in the Cold War, Sweden ran its own substantial army, and security service with intensive back-channel US-Swedish co-operation and co-ordination. The pro-US forces within the Swedish establishment extend across the right (the Moderate(!) Party) and the right of the Social Democrats, who have far more animus to the assorted Swedish left (especially the libertarian-left) than to their rightward opponents.
The involvement of Claes Borgstrom, a Social Democratic party heavy and the party’s current spokesperson on gender equality, is very interesting in that respect, not least because his sister Annette Kullenberg is a leading journalist (and, inevitably, novelist and TV thriller writer), who works for … Expressen. I’m not suggesting anything other than a suffocatingly tight establishment, but it’s a picture in miniature of how Sweden works.
So deep breath … if you were to set out to destabilise a Sweden-based global whistleblower organisation, one easy way would be to have someone set off a chain of sexual chaos that gets a high-profile uber-activist and one who’s previously written a guide to sexual revenge spinning like a top, and drawing in Sweden’s expansive sex-crime and harassment laws, marshalling the very scenario that would make it difficult for the left to throw in accusations of obvious manipulation and entrapment.
You’d then leak stories of internal dissent to a journalist with US intelligence connections, and widen any cracks of trust in the organisation, however small. Further internal dissent would be created by misapprehension created by the story of initial internal dissent, and recriminations about such. And round you go. It’s a well-worn tactic used by US agencies on “enemy” groups domestic and foreign.
Indeed it’s already been written down by the US Army Counterintelligence Centre, in its report on what to do about WikiLeaks:
Wikileaks.org uses trust as a centre of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to Wikileaks.org personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous …
“The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity …”