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Rundle: Assange makes his escape into a diplomatic storm

Six months ago. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on bail awaiting a decision about extradition to Sweden, quietly moved his official bail residence from Suffolk to Kent. The ostensible reason was that his Suffolk host — Vaughan Smith, founder of Frontline Media and the Frontline Club and his wife — were expecting a baby imminently, and Mrs Smith was finding the perpetual presence of a dozen or so WikiLeakers stressful.

Myself, I thought one thing: channel run. Two hours after a judgment came down from the UK Supreme Court authorising Assange’s extradition to Sweden, he would be on a yacht, one of those super-yachts that the cypherpunks of the ’90s bought after they all got rich. It was easy to game it out. The super-yacht only has to get beyond the 12-mile UK waters line before it is in international waters. Assange would then be in a legal limbo.

I never wrote the suggestion up in an article, because I thought it was something Team Assange might be planning, and something the dim-bulb UK legal-police establishment would genuinely not have thought of. Instead, Assange has done something more creative — turned up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asked for asylum. The move has thrown the carefully choreographed rendition of Julian Assange into chaos, and created an international impasse in London, and in the EU as a whole.

To recap the state of play: 10 days ago, the UK Supreme Court denied Assange’s appeal against a European arrest warrant to Sweden, to submit to further questioning on s-xual assault allegations made by two women he had met in August 2010. Assange’s barrister, thinking on her feet, noted the judgment relied in part on the Vienna Convention, which had not formed part of the case leading up to the Supreme Court review. The SC gave her leave to request an appeal on their own judgment.

Last week they dismissed that request rather curtly and set the clock ticking for Assange’s extradition. The only option remained an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, to overrule the UK Supreme Court. But the ECHR will only rarely grant injunctive relief and stop national legal proceedings — most likely it would take two years to consider the case by which time Assange would be in an orange jumpsuit in a Maryland supermax prison.

Had Assange consented to the extradition he would have entered the Swedish legal system, which has two main features:

  1. There is no such thing as bail; you’re either accused of a non-coercive crime and let out on licence, or you’re on remand until trial.
  2. Sweden has a distinctive system of extradition — especially to the US — in which someone accused of a crime in Sweden (and hence on remand) can be “loaned” to the US for prosecution there. This process does not exist in many other countries.

Assange’s latest move has attracted a share of criticism, with both supporters and those neutral towards him questioning his conduct in this matter. About eight people have put up £240,000 bail for Assange, and while many of those — such as leftist filmmaker Ken Loach — would accept that Assange has to take drastic message, others will be less understanding. Jemima Khan has already tweeted that the move took her by surprise, and that she always thought Assange would face the accusations.

Given that Assange has made amply clear his opinion concerning the legitimacy of interlocking national security states, it is hard to regard such surprise as genuine. But it may be. Others have been more sanguine, with Vaughan Smith saying Assange really had no choice but to make the jump if he truly felt the US was out to get him, via Sweden.

There will also be a section of global pro-WikiLeaks opinion that will be dismayed — though why they thought Assange was resisting extradition for 500-plus days is something they would have to explain. The difficulties of the case have been apparent from the start — a hero of the Left (though he does not claim to be of the Left), accused of s-xual assault/r-pe, by one of the world’s most socially progressive countries, and by two women deeply sympathetic to the WikiLeaks cause.

That has been the sentiment behind many of the calls from the liberal-left, that Assange should simply go to Sweden and face the accusations against him. That presumes a neutrality and genuine eye for truth on the part of the Swedish state, an unwise assumption for two reason: first, the possibility that there may be an actual high-level US-Sweden conspiracy going on, and secondly, that the Swedish state legal process may have become so dominated by bureaucratic interests and statist feminism that it would be unable to deal with him fairly.

Let’s take the second of these first, and remark on a few salient points:

1) Sweden’s legal process for s-x crimes is archaic, and has not been overhauled properly. The slightest accusation — in this case of non-violent s-xual line-crossing — not only earns the accused months in remand, but eventually results in a trial in a closed court, before judges appointed by the ruling political parties.

2) The process by which Assange was accused, cleared, and then re-accused of these incidents beggars belief. Two women went to a Stockholm police station one Friday afternoon in August 2010, to either (and here accounts vary) report Assange for s-xual misconduct, or inquire as to how he could be forced to take an STI test. Only one woman, Sofia Wilen, gave a statement, saying that the morning after a s-xual encounter with Assange, he had initiated s-x while she was asleep, and without a condom; by her own testimony, she said that she then gave consent to continue the act.

3) While her statement was being given, police had already contacted a prosecutor to issue an investigation warrant for arrest. When Wilen was informed of this, she refused to sign her own evidence statement, saying that she had been pushed into making a complaint by people around her. The next day, the senior prosecutor for Stockholm rescinded the warrant, saying that there was nothing in the statement suggesting a crime had occurred.

4) By Monday, that decision had been appealed, with the two women now represented by Claes Borgstrom, a big wig in the Social Democratic party, and drafter of the 2005 s-x crimes laws under which Assange was being accused — laws that many had said were unworkable. The second complainant in the affair, Anna Ardin, now changed her story. She had been interviewed the day after Wilen had told of a rough but consensual s-xual encounter with Assange, but suggested he had torn a condom off during s-x.

5) In the weeks between the Stockholm prosecutor rejecting Wilen’s statement as evidence of a potential crime, and the appeal, Ardin’s story changed, and her account of rough consensual foreplay became an accusation that Assange had pinned her down with his body during s-x to prevent her applying a condom. This became the basis for a new accusation — s-xual coercion — which would have been sufficient as a felony, should the appeal prosecutor not reinstate Wilen’s r-pe accusation. In that week, tweets were deleted and blog posts changed to remove any suggestion that Ardin had thought Assange’s behaviour to her consensual.

6) The prosecutor to whom the appeal was made — Marianne Ny — was a former head of the “Crime Development Unit”, whose specific brief was to develop new applications of s-x crimes laws, in areas where they had not previously been applied. She had previously spoken of remand as a form of de facto justice for men accused of s-x crimes, whom the courts would otherwise let free.

7) The European arrest warrant, and the Interpol red notice under which Assange is being extradited, was issued with a speed and seriousness usually reserved for major violent criminals, rather than someone simply wanted for further questioning, without a charge being present.

That is surely enough to get the antennae going, but there’s more:1) Assange’s visit to Sweden during which these incidents occurred had raised alarm in both the centre-right Swedish establishment and the US. Had he been granted the residency he applied for that month, Assange could have become a registered Swedish journalist and based WikiLeaks there, gaining the substantial protections the Swedish state extends to journalists. It has been suggested the US had told Sweden it would curtail intelligence sharing if that occurred. After the accusations were made, Assange was denied residency.

2) Sweden’s defence and intelligence needs are overwhelmingly oriented to its relations to Russia. Sweden runs a huge northern fleet, and maintains a national service-based conscript army, all based on the premise that a military emergency between Russia and Europe would see the former try to enter through the top. Sweden’s right, concentrated in the ruling Moderate party, have for years been trying to abolish Swedish neutrality, and have it join NATO. In fact, Sweden and NATO have been working together closely for years. Sweden becoming a centre for WikiLeaks would have been a disaster for that process.

3) Claes Borgstrom, the politician-lawyer who suddenly popped up to assist the two women accusers, is the law partner of Thomas Bodstrom, the former justice minister in the Social Democratic government that lost power in 2006. In 2001 Bodstrom had been an enthusiastic advocate of secret renditions at US request, with several Swedish citizens of Egyptian origin (Egyptian political refugees granted asylum and citizenship by Sweden, by another part of the state process) rendered back to Egypt and tortured. The entire interconnected Swedish establishment was oriented to a “war on terror” superstate strategy, and an Assange trial on criminal matters would fit that perfectly.

4) In 2011, a grand jury was secretly empanelled in Maryland in the US to bring down indictments in the matter of “cablegate”, the vast release of files that — it is usually assumed — were leaked to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning, a junior information officer who had become connected to the world of hacking through a personal relationship with a Boston-based hacker. Manning is now on trial on a brace of charges that will most likely see him in prison for the rest of his life; the intent of the prosecutors convening the grand jury appears to be to dynamically link Assange with Manning’s leaking of the files, so that Assange can be indicted and extradited for espionage.

Those two interconnecting processes suggest that Assange is within reason to do whatever he can to stay out of the clutches of both states. He is banking on the fact that Ecuador — one of a brace of South American states that turned leftwards in the past decade — would be willing to assist the WikiLeaks leader, given the “cablegate” releases showed the way in which a hidebound US diplomatic elite saw the Latin-American left turn as nothing other than another challenge to US interests by “crypto-communists”.

In 2010, an Ecuadoran deputy justice minister said that Assange would be welcome in Ecuador, a promise walked back to some degree by President Rafael Correa. However, Correa has recently appeared on Assange’s World Tomorrow chat show, and he might be willing to take the heat.

For the moment, the Ecuadorian government is playing a straight bat, issuing this statement:

This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government. As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito. While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.”

So, on we go. The extradition clock continues to tick, the Swedes will fume, and should asylum be granted, a full-blown diplomatic crisis will occur. Where will be in a year? Quite possibly in Quito. Not exactly the Bond-style escape to a yacht in Vaughan Smith’s helicopter, but quite a move all the same.

  • 1
    Chess C
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this excellent article and analysis.
    I was surprised he hadn’t made his bid for asylum earlier. But I was expecting him to seek it with either Venezuala or Cuba, i.e. countries which have already trashed their relationships with the US and would therefore be beyond the reach of US pressure. (The other countries which fall into this category are obviously less attractive, i.e.: Zimbabwe, Iran and the “Democratic” People’s Republic of Korea.)

  • 2
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    The Oz government is handling this abysmally.

    It was bad enough when J W Howard gift-wrapped Hicks for the US govt but we expect Gillard and Roxon to behave with more intelligence and compassion.

  • 3
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the re-cap and update, Guy.

    Poor bastard. Assange will last as long as a snowflake in hell if he is ever in the clutches of the US. They will eat him alive. Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t run sooner and I don’t blame him for doing it.

    I imagine his team has gone through all the options for asylum - Equador must be the least worst. I can’t imagine they informed any of those who paid his bail - as if they could trust Ms Khan with such info’. Hopefully, though, she’s just tweeting that to cover herself so there’s no suggestion of conspiracy.

    I agree with Zut - our government has behaved shamefully throughout this. I’ll never forget Prime Minister J Gillard’s sucky statement that he’s done something illegal blah blah. It was pythonesque.

    Good luck to Julian - he’s going to need it.

  • 4
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Everyone who saw the 4 Corners report on the treatment currently being meted out on Bradley Manning (described in the report as torture), would not be surprised Assange is petrified as to what may await if he is extradited to the US. Possibly a life term in jail whilst many of their right wing Fox Media inspired commentary was calling for his extra judicial execution.

  • 5
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Bail jumping coward or political prisoner seeking asylum? I guess history will be the judge.

    Regardless of the asylum decision, it might not help. Ronnie Biggs made it to South America as well and he is still served some time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

    I think he will lose a few fans over this. Running away is not quite the stuff of leftist folk songs. It’s more about standing your ground.

  • 6
    mick j
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    It is terrible that justice is something which can be denied when powerful governments want nothing more than to make an example of an individual. In Australia a few years ago we saw a Microsoft jet turn up to pick up one of our citizens who had hacked into Microsoft’s source code. This was an Australian citizen and the young boy was sold out by the then Liberal government, never to be heard from again.

    If Assange were here in Australia it is my bet that he would be handed over to the US, no questions asked.

    It is my hope that Julien Assange is afforded some genuine justice.

  • 7
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Nice conspiracy theories. But if Assange is so wanted why hasn’t the USA asked it’s closest ally the UK to extradite him from Britain?

  • 8
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Umm… what exactly should the Australian Government do about this? Ask the US not to extradite assange when there has been nothing to indicate it will but media speculation about possible international conspiracies? Maybe it needs a process to actually begin before making representations. Also, I really can’t see the Australian Government pre-judging sexual assault allegations by intervening with Sweeden on JA’s behalf. The whole thing’s a bit hysterical in my view.

  • 9
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Once, just once I would like to see an Australian government act independently, on principle, and against the ‘wishes’ of the US. There is only one way to get the respect of a bully and it would be both cathartic and character-building.

    Without being known to assert an independant opinion on a matter of national principle (something we expect and accept as a natural function from the US), what hope have we of ever being a truly independent republic?

    I feel sick.

  • 10
    ed moran
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    “standing your ground” upside down in an orange overall with water running up your nose? like to see you hold your ground you would be yelling for mumma

  • 11
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    This is not running away - it’s called survival.
    Sweden is an interesting place. Having spent quite some time in that part of the world over the last ten years and with friends across the Nordic region, I discovered that Sweden holds quite a few surprises.
    Its neutrality in WW2 is questionable given it’s NAZI leanings and I suggest that many in Norway hold the Swedish govt accountable for the betrayal of the resistance.
    Its neutrality still remains questionable - pragmatism and neutrality can be uneasy bedfellows.
    The leopard has not changed its spots.
    Given the desertion by his own government Assange has to trust his instincts.
    Hopefully one day we will see an Australian government with the integrity and guts to represent the interests of its citizens.

  • 12
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    The popular notion is “innocent until proven guilty”. This use of ‘until’ suggests it is just a matter of time for guilt to be declared. The expression should be ‘innocent UNLESS proven guilty”. And someone who has not been charged with a crime is automatically innocent.

  • 13
    Anton Frank
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree in standing your ground is critical in any situation, although this changes in light of facing allegations in archaic Swedish judicial process, and a government, which is influenced by greater US interests.

    So the question is Assange a coward running away from his accusers in Sweden or is it a case of self-preservation against possible moves for US to extradite him for espionage.

    I wonder how each of us would behave, if we faced, Assange’s circumstances.

  • 14
    Chess C
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    @ParisAustralien and @Damien - Rundle outlines very clearly why it is easier to extradite Assange to the US from Sweden than from the UK. And as for dismissing this as a conspiracy theory, leaked emails have already confirmed the existence of a grand jury in the US to try assange on charges of espionage. Hiding behind the charade of “due process” is in fact apologising for an abuse of process.

    Assange effectively had the choice of becoming a political prisoner or a political refugee. Remember back when political refugees came from totalitarian countries? As Australians we can now feel proud that our 2-party state has one too.

  • 15
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Rendition” Really? He has hardly been black bagged, he has faced one of the better legal systems in the world and had all the assistance from the Australian govt afforded anyone else not to mention all the celbrity support you could poke a stick at. I don’t see Geoffrey Robertson coming out in support of the Australian lawyer arrested in Libya.
    As someone above said the US could ask for extradition from the UK so why hasn’t it? The assumption that “most likely it would take two years to consider the case by which time Assange would be in an orange jumpsuit in a Maryland supermax prison.” is a little conspiratorial.

  • 16
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Presumably he had no choice as the duopoly political party system here wants him in the USA either locked up forever or facing a lethal injection from the world centre of the death penalty.
    Bob Carr’s strenuous efforts to get Melinda Taylor released stand in marked contrast to the do-nothing actions about Assange.
    So either it will be Senor Assange or Assange prisoner number 98698760 in the USA super-max prison. Well thats what happens to someone who embarrasses pollies in a democracy. As the papers say, brace for the cheers from the sheltered workshop down at US citizen Mudrok’s AUSTRALIAN.

  • 17
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    ChessC - Easier to do it from Sweden but not impossible to do it from the UK and Sweden is hardly a third world country that is relying on the US for aid or military protection.

  • 18
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    ChessC - Easier to do it from Sweden but not impossible to do it from the UK and Sweden is hard ly a third world country that is rel ying on the US for aid or mil itary protection.

  • 19
    Julia Gollan
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    That an Australian citizen should have to apply for protection from another nation is abysmal!

    The duplicity of Prime Minister Gillard is plain for all to see - information contained within the Stratfor email release clearly demonstrates the preparation of a grand jury indictment by the United States government. When questioned in Parliament Gillard stated that there had been no official request for Assange’s extradition to the US.

    Considering the links between the Swedish and United States administrations I think Assange’s concerns that he might not get a fair trial are well placed!

  • 20
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Assange has repeatedly agreed to be questioned via hook-up - why is this not acceptable to the Stockholm prosecutor?

    Oh that’s right, they prefer him to be physically present. Ever wondered why?

  • 21
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Your work is the reason I subscribed to Crikey, I love it, and I blush to correct a fine stylist on a small error of semantics. But a brace doesn’t mean a few or several or a lot, it means a pair.

  • 22
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Julia Gollan - What would you have Australia do? They can’t refuse to extradite him to Sweden because he is in the UK, they can’t oppose an extradiction to the US that doesn’t exist. They can’t object to charges being laid as they haven’t. He has had at least as much consular help as anyone else.

    I would also point out that he knewhe was breaking US law when he leaked the information, actions do have consequences.

  • 23
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    As with Hicks, just because Assange is Australian doesn’t mean he’s automatically innocent or has governments conspiring unjustly against him. Sweden is not Iran or Bahrain (where an 11 year old boy that claims he was playing in the street was arested and is being charged with riot!), and has a legal system that practiced for centuries before Australia was even discovered. To rubbish it’s legal system, it’s government and its international standing suggesting it’s conspiring with the American in some underhand fashion I think is close to ridiculous.
    Time to face the music Mr A, if as you claim the charges are trumped up, you probably won’t even be charged and will be on your way home shortly. If you do end up in Maryland, I’ll say right now that as much as I dislike you personally, I’ll stump the first $100 for your new lawyers and not only will I protest outside the American embassy, I’ll demand our government does absolutely all it can to get you out.

  • 24
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The notion that a man can be forcibly extradited to anywhere merely for the sort of questioning that has been done and for which their is no defendent left standing is a blight on the Magna Carta which has been the measure of common law for over 800 years and Britain and the gutless Australian government should hang their heads in shame.

    Assange should have been allowed to come home - he has already been under house arrest longer than any prison term for the crime without a defendent.

  • 25
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy, you haven’t really read up on this case have you?

    Assange broke no US law. He’s a journalist publishing material supplied to him.

    Google a bit further to figure it out.

    That’s why the US is cooking up something behind the scenes, otherwise it’d all be out in the open.

  • 26
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Tom: odd choice of example. Hicks was innocent and did have governments conspiring unjustly against him.

  • 27
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn - He is the defendent.

  • 28
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    @JohnB78 apologies, what was the name of that bloke arrested in Afghanistan with a gun in his hand? Never let the evidence …….. He was Aussie which obviously means he was not a terrorist just a high spirited larakin that made an innocent mistake.
    If there was any notion of a conspiracy between the Aus and US governments in the Hicks case it was for political expediency in the run-up to an election.
    @Marilyn if he’d chosen to face the music he’d have been home 6 weeks after the event. It’s his own actions that have seen the matter drag out.

  • 29
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    1. it’s pretty obvious that the Oz government isn’t trying too hard here. The example of our foreign minister this week is pretty compelling.
    2. Having said that I’m not entirely sure what else they could have done as this all ran through the UK court system. There is after all an official complaint/warrant whatever you want to call it in play
    3. Does the whole charge in Sweden and how it come about smell? Sure does.
    4. Is Assange being unreasonable trying to avoid the risk of a doctored legal process behind doors. Or an extradition to the US. No, he would be stupid not to, and apart from jabbing the US government with sharp sticks he hasn’t shown himself to be stupid.
    5. Is his request for asylum not the best move he could have made from a publicity point of view. Absolutely - see point 4 about him not being stupid.
    6. Would the US like to crush him under their heel for at the very least being an annoying little sh1t - of course it does. I’m just surprised Obama hasnt sent the drones out into Surrey!

  • 30
    Omar Khayyam
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    the Oz govt can bring Julian back to Oz, tell the US to PO and invite the Swedish prosecutors to Oz for an interview on Julian’s homeground.
    Or, they can tell the Swedes to put up or shut up in relation to evidence.

    The Oz govt have a very clear responsibility, legal and moral, to protect Julian.

    Clearly, Julian has a very clear case for getting out the system while he can, as there certainly isn’t any justice involved in any of this.

  • 31
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Chess C - I didn’t call it a conspiracy, Guy did. Apparently Bob Carr should be over in Stockholm waving his fist and yelling at the Swedes not to apply their laws because we reckon they are biased against alleged perpetrators of sexual assault and what would they know with their renowned Swedish right-wing barbarism. No cultural chauvanism here. It’ll play well in Europe as well!

    Then Bob should storm off to Washington and demand that the US does not to attempt to arrest and charge JA because we (well some of the readers here) reckon the US legal process is unjust because of the excessive way the previous (not the current) Administration dealt with terrorism suspects and that the more excitable of us reckon he’ll be renditioned to Gitmo or some such.

    That was a funny dream. Is it morning yet?

  • 32
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I fully appreciate Mr. Assange’s motives for seeking asylum in a non-extradition treaty country. And Guy has perfectly articluated the reasons why. To those of you who are ambivalent or have expressed a view against Mr. Assange, it is clear to me that you haven’t read the article properly.

  • 33
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy, you sound like a legal expert when you write: “I would also point out that he knew he was breaking US law when he leaked the information…”. I think you’re just guessing. If you had a pretty good idea that you would indeed be extradited to the US (fair or not) once the Swedes got hold of you, would you just take it like a man? If you thought you could get back to Australia secretly, would you be confident that your home country would not let the Americans come and get you anyway? On recent experience you couldn’t have confidence. The Australian government has said, without saying, that it’s not much fussed about Assange, that it hasn’t officially discussed him with the Americans and that it is not proposing to do so.
    Well there is the answer to all these questions about ‘what can Australia do’. Australia could publicly ask the US about the secret indictment and make the answer public. If there is no answer forthcoming then it could privately, through diplomatic channels not penetrated by Wikileaks, formally request an answer. It could engage the Americans in a conversation and not just hang around (like in Mexico) singing irrelevant praises. But maybe Julia Gillard and Bob Carr and the Opposition find the whole thing inconvenient and difficult. And maybe that’s why they’re doing nothing. It can’t be that hard, but it is.

  • 34
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Hugh McColl - My point was that he knew he was committing an offence so it is a bit late now to start considering his options.He should of considered all the possibilities (ie the Us could charge him with treason) and weighed up if he was prepared to take that risk.
    Also there is currently no evidence (even the greens said this today) that the US want to extradite him from Sweden or that they are preparing any charges against him.
    So assuming Assange is an intelligent individual he made a conscious choice fully aware of the risks and now refuses to abide by the laws of both Sweden and the UK because he is fearful of the possibility of the consequences of his actions and instead complains about a lack of assistance from Australia (despite getting as much or more than any other citizen) and trys to seek asylum in Ecuador.

  • 35
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I am disappointed even more with George Brandis, senior member of the Bar than I am with the Attorney-General. At the very least it would be reassuring to know that they find it completely unacceptable, and are prepared to say so, that Sweden is insisting on using processes against him that no Australian should be subjected to (we might say that no one should be subjected to but if that’s what the Swedes want for themselves I suppose they should have it). There should at least have been some offensive innuendoes about the Swede’s failure to take the opportunity to question him in the UK. And our American friends should have been told loudly and publicly that it is not acceptable for an Australian citizen to be indicted secretly by the outdated grand jury process and his extradition sought for facilitating publication in the New York Times (!!!) which no one seeks to punish, of embarrassing emails and cables. Is it alleged that he committed a crime in the US? Or that it would be a crime under Australian law? No, so he should be defended loudly by our government and alernative government.

    Considering the possible consequences if he is extradited to the US it is absurd to suggest that his attempts to avoid Sweden’s dubious ways with renditions/extraditions are other than common sense. And he has good reason to be suspicious. Why won’t the Swedes ask their questions of him in the UK? Why is there no believable account of what the grand jury in Maryland has been up to from the US government? He would be a fool and no use to any cause if he acted like a naive fool. Prima facie he has got a lot to be scared of.

    As to what is happening with Bradley Manning, apart from the proof that the US government has been shown to be hopeless and protecting confidential information which should worry its allies, doesn’t it stand to reason that the prosecution wants the impression to be given that he is not going to dob in Assange until they actually have their hands on Assange. It’s 50:50 that Manning already has a script he will swear to that makes Assange the leader of the conspiracy (maybe just of him and Manning) to steal US government property and make it available to enemies of the US. Let’s hope the careful and smart Assange kept recordings of their communications….

  • 36
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jim
    When did posting information in a democratic society become a crime?

  • 37
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Shanghai - That all depends on what the information is and how you obtained it doesn’t it.

    There is plenty of information that isn’t for public consumption and is a crime to publish, polictical, military and commercial.

    If it isn’t a crime why is Assange worried?

  • 38
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy, sure, why would Assange have any basis for concern in a democracy where rabid Fox News presenters are calling for his blood and execution?

  • 39
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Following last night’s Lateline interview with one of the smartest guests I have seen, Eric Beecher, and the quality of detail and thought in this article, its definitely time to renew my Crikey subscription.

    My questions are: can the Ecuadorian Government 1) provide JA passage to Ecuador while they consider his application ii) detain him in Ecuador then also seek to use him as political leverage once they refuse his application? iii ) and if he is detained in Ecuador does this then open a door for JA to be sent to Australia to enable him to defend himself from here?

  • 40
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy - I hope you’re not in the business of giving people advice on their legal problems.

    What makes you say that he (Assange) was committing an offence? What offence? By the law of what country committed in what country?

    Well the Greens don’t think there is evidence that the US are after him! How reassuring! When has the Greens judgment on anything been worth tuppence?

    I don’t share Assange’s politics (so far as I know what they are) but I would think him a fool if he didn’t accept as evidence of the US’s malign intent towards him 1. that quite a few important people in the US have said he is and should be treated as a criminal (a fact with a reasonbly high correlation with official attempts to prosecute him); 2. there have been many detailed reports of what a Maryland grand jury has been invited to do and no attempt at a reassuring answer by the US government (although a somewhat slippery one by the US ambassador who, as Assange points out, is a lawyer and careful with his words).

    As for your use of the word “treason” that just shows that you are on another planet. “Espionage” just maybe, but “treason” is not an offence that an Australian commits against the law of any country but Australia (or another of which he is a citizen or subject).

    The only cowardice in the whole sorry story is the cowardice of our politicians in not standing up to the US. Even Howard, in relation to the much less serious problems that Hicks faced in terms of likely outcomes from US government vengefulness, made his dissatisfaction with the delays in dealing with Hicks apparent and did get Hicks back. And Hicks had taken up arms with Al Qaeda. Assange has merely been a conduit for embarrassing information about governments that he was, until let down by others, handling with considerable care to ensure that lives weren’t endangered.

  • 41
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Zut Alors - I didn’t know Fox News was now in charge of the justice system in the US?

    My point is Assange knew the laws of the land when he made his choice to publish, he isn’t being fitted up with sonme retroactive law, the law was there he made his choice and he took the risk. And if he didn’t factor in a reactin from the extreme right he was naive.

    And on top of that he hasn’t even been charged by the US and the US haven’t even requested extradiction.

  • 42
    alfred venison
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    dear editor
    i have been told by a man who reads foreign languages that sweden’s welfare state is cross-subsidised by its arms sector exports.

    i’m told further that sweden’s arms sector sales have declined recently.

    and that sweden badly needs revenue for its welfare system.

    so sweden is looking for “new markets” for its arms.

    and sweden wants to become most favored arms supplier to nato.

    for the record, sweden already supplies baltic nato members (including poland) with arms and baltic nato members with military training. sweden has a military contingent in afghanistan with nato.

    sweden is currying favor with usa to clinch most favored arms supplier status with nato.

    uk is difficult to extradite from – sweden, on the other hand, badly needs usa’s friendship.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  • 43
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Let’s get up a Crikey based movement to have it made a rule that any Australian accused of committing a crime in another country or against another country should be able to opt for trial in Australia. After all, the old principle was that extradition only applied where the alleged crime would be a crime in Australia. And, wouldn’t it be fairer to put up the foreign prosecution’s principal spokeman, counsel or instructer of Australian counsel in a five star hotel while the trial took place than have the Australian defendant sitting in a foreign gaol or monitored in some apartment away from friends and family desperately trying to find out if there are lawyers he can rely on and how to afford them? And shouldn’t an Australian be tried by people whose language he shares and not even by those who appear to do so superficially in, say, rural Alabama?

  • 44
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy, it is perfectly legal to publish government documents which have been leaked to you. If not, most of our newspaper editors here and overseas would be in prison.

    Assange did not leak the documents: he published them. So far, he hasn’t broken any law, apart from the allegations in Sweden, for which they persistently refused to interview him while he was there, but suddenly start chasing him with an Interpol Most Wanted notice once he left the country with their permission.

    The whole thing stinks. It’s like watching some kid get victimized by bullies on video, realizing there is nothing you can do to stop it.

  • 45
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    @ PARISAUSTRALIEN my understanding is that the USA can’t request Assange’s extradition while there are current extradition proceedings against him by another country. They have to wait in line.

  • 46
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy

    Again what law did he break and where was he when he did it? Let me help what might euphemistically be called your thinking on these still unanswered questions? He publishes something when in, say, the UK which might be termed “confidential information” by the US? What is the law he has broken? And what makes you so sure he knew that laws terms and ambit? Another bit of help: when did he commit the offence? When he provided copies to the Guardian and New York Times for help in sifting the wheat from the chaff and to make sure there they weren’t causing danger to anyone? Or only when he published some of the stuff at large? And why hasn’t the editor of the New York Times been indicted or subjected to calls for his head on Fox TV?

  • 47
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy: ‘And on top of that he hasn’t even been charged by the US and the US haven’t even requested extradiction.’

    Ever seen a lion stalking its prey? It doesn’t indicate it’s getting ready to pounce.

  • 48
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jimmy,
    Under one of the bills passed by the US senate in Dec/Jan time frame the US can declare anyone anywhere an enemy under terror laws and based upon that declaration start proceedings. They don’t have to even advise the individual of the basis of the charges. A person can be held indefinitely in detention outside the justice system without charges - essentially a prisoner of war but also outside the Geneva convention. Have a read - lots of discussion on it in the US at the moment.
    Without Aus gov support in such a complex geopolitical opera Assange is stuffed - now it’s a matter of self survival for him.
    And to cut back to basics, our mainstream press is now so compromised that whistle blowers have become fundamental to the process of democracy and open government.

  • 49
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify………open to lots of interpretation..

    The detention sections of the NDAA begin by “affirm[ing]” that the authority of the President under the AUMF, a joint resolution passed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, includes the power to detain, via the Armed Forces, any person (including U.S. citizens)”who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners”, and anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of such enemy forces, under the law of war, “without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF]”. The text authorizes trial by military tribunal, or “transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin”, or transfer to “any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity”

  • 50
    Gratton Wilson
    Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Julian Assange is a journalist and he did the equivalent of displaying some very dirty laundry belonging to the US as well as some shoddystuff belonging to the Australian Government. All very embarrassing but not illegal. The US doesn’t like people to publicise that they do some very nasty things.
    David Hicks, Mamdoh Habib and that young hacker are clear examples of Australia’s attitude to US kidnapping Australian citizens - we turn our backs real quick. None of those Australians broke an Australian law, nor the law of the country in which they located nor were they in the US when the alleged “crimes” were committed. Our Government is being very evasive about its knowledge about US intentions - reminds me very much of John Howard saying that the US had not asked for troops to invade Iraq - when our troops were already lined up at the border.