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Dec 9, 2010

Assange accuser may have ceased co-operating

Anna Ardin, one of the two complainants in the rape and sexual assault case against WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, has left Sweden, and may have ceased actively co-operating with the Swedish prosecution service and her own lawyer, sources in Sweden told Crikey today.

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Sources in Sweden have told Crikey that Anna Ardin, one of the two complainants in the rape and sexual assault case against WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, has left Sweden, and may have ceased actively co-operating with the Swedish prosecution service and her own lawyer.

The move comes amid a growing campaign by leading Western feminists to question the investigation, and renewed confusion as to whether Sweden has actually issued charges against Assange. Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, and the European group Women Against Rape, have all made statements questioning the nature and purpose of the prosecution.

Crikey has been told that Ardin, who also goes by the name Bernardin, has moved to the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories, as part of a Christian outreach group, aimed at bringing reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. She has moved to the small town of Yanoun, which sits close to Israel’s security/sequestration wall. Yanoun is constantly besieged by fundamentalist Jewish settlers, and international groups have frequently stationed themselves there.

Attempts by Crikey to contact Ardin by phone, fax, email and twitter were unsuccessful today.

Ardin’s blog has restarted after a fortnight hiatus, and her twitter feed has restarted after a two-month break. The twitter feed appears to be commenting on her ongoing profile in the media with the latest entry reading: “CIA agent, rabid feminist / Muslim lover, a Christian fundamentalist, frigid & fatally in love with a man, can you be all that at the same time …”

The previous tweet appears to extend support to WikiLeaks, after financial agencies withdrew their services, reading “Mastercard, Visa and Paypal — hit it, now!”*

One source from Ardin’s old university of Uppsala reported rumours that she had stopped co-operating with the prosecution service several weeks ago, and that this was part of the reason for the long delay in proceeding with charges — and what still appears to be an absence of charges.

News of Ardin/Bernardin’s departure comes as reports circulate of Ardin’s connection to the right-wing Cuban exile community in Miami, something that Crikey readers learnt of months ago. The reports have helped fuel wilder conspiracy theories about the nature of Ardin’s involvement with WikiLeaks and Assange.

A former politics student who had done internships at Sweden’s DC embassy, Ardin completed her thesis on Cuban political opposition groups, many of whom have involvement — and funding — from the US interests section, the only US diplomatic representation in Cuba. Ardin initially began her research in Havana and left after being advised that her position was no longer safe. She completed the research in Miami.

However, it seems more likely that the Cuban episode is part of the same political nomadism that led her to WikiLeaks. An office holder with the Social Democratic party’s Christian “brotherhood” faction, Ardin is active in a range of causes from Latin America to animal liberation.

Ardin’s move and confusion over her involvement and the real status of the charges against Assange come as the campaign questioning the charges against him has come to include a number of leading feminist activists. Naomi Klein tweeted that:

“Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up! #wikilieaks

While in The Huffington Post, Naomi Wolf posted a (quite funny) article asking Interpol to apprehend every date she’s had who turned out to be a narcissistic jerk.

In The Guardian Karin Axelsson of Women Against R-pe questioned why Assange’s case was being pursued more assiduously than cases of rape judged more serious (Sweden has three degrees of severity for rape charges).

These moves are evidence of the situation your correspondent suggested in Crikey yesterday — that the Assange case is proving to be the final process by which the second-wave feminist coalition formed in the late 1960s splits substantially, with feminists with differing attitude to Western state power finding themselves on different sides of the debate.

Indeed, it puts one in the unusual position of saying that commentators such as Wolf are being too anti-complainant in their construction of the charges as nothing other than a couple of bad dates. It’s a strange world, and getting stranger.

The lawyer for Ardin and Wilen, the two complainants, has hit back at attacks and criticism of his clients, saying that they had been put on trial and effectively assaulted twice. He claimed to be in daily contact with the women, which suggests that he has a better reception to Yanoun than many of its inhabitants have to the outside world.

Even if the case comes to trial, the prospects of conviction look slim. Crikey asked Flinders University sex crime law expert Dr Mary Heath to go over the charges (which may still be accusations at this stage) as they were relayed in Assange’s extradition bail hearing, and she made the following comments:

“Practically speaking, I would not like the chances of the prosecutor on charge 3 — pressing his erect penis into the complainant’s back … legally speaking I would have to suggest the chances of conviction would be slim for any Australian offence where both accused were adults. Proving non consent might be difficult but proving awareness of non consent would be even harder.

“Charges 1 and 2 (holding partner down, and unsafe sex despite earlier expressed opposition to such) involve contexts where there would be room for defence argument about consent. On charge 1, when is one person ‘holding down’ another person lying beneath them, and when are they simply having consensual sex in a position involving one person being on top of the other person?  Is this force or just rough but consensual (compared to cases I’ve read, the allegation would hardly count as rough).

“On charge 2, prior unwillingness is not enough, the complainant must not be consenting and the accused must be aware of this ‘at the time of intercourse’. Did complainant one change her mind?  Did Assange believe she changed her mind, and perhaps on reasonable grounds the charge does not disclose?

“On charge 4 (sex while complainant was sleeping), recent experience in South Australia suggests this also could be difficult to prove if there was any kind of sexual interaction prior to the complainant falling asleep, which might give the defence a plausible argument that belief in consent was present. I was deeply unimpressed by the level of protection the courts (let alone public attitudes) offered to people who are asleep or unconscious due to drugs/alcohol.

“… The one thing that is clearer, perhaps, is that the charges may turn on withdrawal of consent once a sexual act had commenced.  The law of almost every jurisdiction in Australia would recognise withdrawal of consent after a sexual act commenced as rendering that sexual act non consensual (and therefore rape).  As for proving it …  I reiterate what I said about proof previously.”

The Guardian reports that former Crown Prosecution Service extradition expert Raj Joshi said that extradition was unlikely:

“On what we know so far, it is going to be very difficult to extradite. The judge has to be satisfied that the conduct equals an extraditable offence and that there are no legal bars to extradition.

“Assange’s team will argue, how can the conduct equal an extraditable offence if the [Swedish] prosecutor doesn’t think there is enough evidence to charge, and still has not charged.”

This has added to speculation that the Swedish moves, which have coincided with the release of the Cablegate stories, are politically motivated as stalling tactics, allowing Assange to be detained while the US “prepares an extradition/rendition request”, according to Assange’s UK lawyer Mark Stephens.

* I might have that completely wrong. The Swedish is “Mastercard, Visa och paypal — skärp er, nu!” I’m happy to be corrected.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle

Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.

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53 comments

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53 thoughts on “Assange accuser may have ceased co-operating

  1. johnb78

    Guy – this is another good piece and I salute your reporting on this case.

    You really needed to ask an English lawyer, though, as sexual offences laws are different in England from those in Victoria (see: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/part/1 ). Also, I don’t think Dr Heath understands what’s accused in count 1.

    1) This is rape under English law. As you reported yesterday, the allegation is that Assange penetrated Miss A’s vagina despite being told not to. The “holding down” and “force” stuff relate to the weirdness of Swedish sex law – the claim wouldn’t be classed as rape *in Sweden* without force.

    2) This isn’t rape or sexual assault under English law.

    3) This would only be sexual assault under English law given evidence of prior lack of consent (ie “I’ll share a bed with you but don’t you dare try and touch me, ya bastard”).

    4) This is technically rape under English law without express consent (even the fact that she consented *after he started* doesn’t get him off the hook). A conviction is unlikely if she consented after he started and only withdrew consent subsequently, and the South Australian precedent could be taken into account on appeal, but this isn’t *guaranteed* to be thrown out of court like 2 and 3.

    But, given the existence of count 1, unless Miss A withdraws her testimony or Assange’s lawyers can demonstrate that it is seriously flawed pre-trial, there is sufficient evidence to deport him to Sweden. Without the existence of count 1, there probably wouldn’t be.

  2. Greg Angelo

    In describing Sweden as the “lickspittle of the United States”, this morning Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens seems to have hit the nail on the head. Sweden is being portrayed as a lackey of the United States which is trying to address the issue of its own citizen’s leak of confidential information by attacking Wikileaks through its founder and trying to intimidate it against further disclosure. In appearing to facilitate this process, Sweden has chosen some very bad bedfellows.

    Whatever the natural justice of the situation concerning the rape allegations, there has been sufficient questioning of the motivation for these extradition proceedings to put Sweden in a very bad light as an acolyte of the United States.
    Right wing commentators in United States are calling for Mr Assange to be assassinated or be tried for treason. These lunatics do not understand that treason cannot apply to anybody other than a US citizen, and that extrajudicial killing is against the American Constitution. On the other hand the Wikileaks disclosures go to the very heart of political duplicity, and the freedom of expression and information which underpins Western democracy.
    or
    In making these comments, I am even more disgusted with our own government which has its own set of “lickspittles” including our Prime Minister Gillard and reportedly US informant Minister Arbib. The current proceedings in relation to Sweden’s extradition proceedings are so transparently obvious as being politically motivated yet the Australian government cannot see its way clear to support an Australian citizen with anything other than tokenism.

  3. Yoron

    I’m a swede and i think it stinks 🙂

    It’s not a good thing when one see the Swedish government running in rings because they want to please some really big Neighbors. not that one should be surprised, we’ve had a right wing government for a long time now and they’ve done what they can to ‘please’. At first I thought it was some dark ‘think tank’ that had fixed a ‘honey trap’ for him, but as we all know, human stupidity and Alpha males 🙂 don’t need any stupidity. It just ah, comes natural(?) for them ::))

    And I totally agree with Julian not to go to Sweden. The first Judge involved threw the case out, but then ‘political wheels’ seemed to start running and another judge reopened the case again. And the papers in Sweden haven’t had any ‘real investigating reporting’ as I’ve seen, then on the other hand, whenever did they have it? Mostly they’ve been kissing the governments ass, as I see it.

    It sux, big-time, and as a Swede I don’t like it at all. But I guess Australia have had her own ‘political mysteries’ at times too? This kind of thing happens when people have been ‘hobnobbing’ all to much with the big boys, forgetting that it is the people that choose them, not some politicians ‘over there’.

    Take a look at this blog, don’t know where the guys writing it stand politically, but it’s a direct translation from a Swedish blog I was up on, rereading about the case.

    http://bigfatfurrytexan.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/assange-case-evidence-destroyed-over-and-over/

    They had nothing in Sweden about this, at the same time the papers hung out a fourteen year old slightly retarded foster girl that had run away to later get gang raped and held. They had no problems talking about that, writing about her, but when it came to presenting some ‘investigating journalism’ about Julian I had to go to England to find out.

    Didn’t know he was so scared about, ah, condoms was it? Big they are (Yoda) and dangerous 🙂 That was not a nice trick he played on her if it was correct, but it was no ‘rape’ as I wrote too. But we all have our quirks I guess 🙂

    But he should have told his version earlier. Wiki-leaks have had so much bad publicity because of him not telling his version. and that kind of thing is needed, even if uncomfortable for those, getting into the limelight, as they say. The vice president seem to call him a ‘hi tech terrorist’ now 🙂 Sh* he forgot, a ‘Physicist Hi Tech Terrorist ‘it should be. Can you see Julian sneaking around in the bush?

    Skulduggery ahoy 🙂

    Nah, I hope they will have some sense and let this thing die, there are too many people knowing what it was about now.

    And it stinks.

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