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Jun 20, 2012

Rundle: Assange makes his escape into a diplomatic storm

Julian Assange has shocked his supporters with a creative new twist -- turning up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asking for asylum. The international diplomatic mess is enormous.

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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.

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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184 comments

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184 thoughts on “Rundle: Assange makes his escape into a diplomatic storm

  1. Warren Joffe

    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….

  2. Warren Joffe

    @ 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.

  3. Paperchaser

    “The process by which Assange was accused, cleared, and then re-accused of these incidents beggars belief.”

    No, Rundle, it doesn’t. If it beggars your belief, you haven’t spent time with people who are dealing with the aftermath of this type of assault. Someone who considers Sweden’s laws in this domain archaic, who believes that statist feminism makes the country’s legal process untenable, and who dismisses nailing a woman bareback despite her objections as “line-crossing” may be the sort of person who believes an assault isn’t an assault unless he says so, and that people who have been assaulted aren’t psychologically disturbed and confused enough by events to prevent them seeing the way forward with “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” American-movie-style clarity.

    But your moral and intellectual shortcomings do not a conspiracy make, especially as your interpretation of Swedish loan-extradition laws is faulty. Assange would not be “loaned” in a timely manner if he could argue that the charges against him are political, and the timeframe of his prosecution in the US on espionage charges would also be likely to preclude the possibility of a loan.

    Both aspects of the question are problematic enough that if there was an enduring US intention or conspiracy to extradite and prosecute the man – both operationally unnecessary measures now as 1) the financial embargo against Wikileaks has been successful 2) potential leakers see from Bradley Manning’s case that they cannot safely use Wikileaks, and also see from the publishing of the unredacted files that Wikileaks does not take the protection of sensitive identities seriously and 3) Assange and his supporters have chosen to idenitify his assault charges with the operations of Wikileaks, compromising how seriously the organization will be taken henceforth – an extradition process from the UK to the US under the extremely liberal terms of the UK-to-US extradition treaty would have begun minutes after Sweden quietly dropped its case.

    I think much of the disappointment over Assange’s decision to run comes in the fact that if it works, the world will be free to continue to believe Assange is a cowardly pervert willing to compromise the reputation of his organization by confounding this assault investigation with an attack on Wikileaks itself.

    I never expected him to “man up” and I don’t know what choice I would have made in his situation, but I expect it would have started with wearing a condom when told to.

  4. Paperchaser

    ‘“Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t seem to figure high on the list of many comments above. S-xual assualt is a serious crime, but to assume that Assange is guilty and getting away with it with his asylum request is nonsense.’

    Don’t put words in my mouth, Andrea2012, and don’t be facile.

    There’s sufficient indications that Assange may have committed assaults that now there’s a transparent extradition process to a civil law country with world-beating legal standards to interview him about the allegations.

    He may be innocent until proven guilty – although in civil law countries, the burden of defence does in practice fall more heavily on the accused than in common law countries. And yet many civil law countries still manage higher juridical standards than most common law countries, and Sweden is one of them.

    In any case, that doesn’t mean a series of courts haven’t decided Assange doesn’t have a case to answer to, which he is now employing every means possible to not answer to. Legal arguments aside, he’s already compromised Wikileaks by conflating his personal problems with its operations, and now he’s willing to cause diplomatic issues between Ecuador, Sweden, the UK and Australia in his own interests.

    If you don’t think the world is justified in drawing some conclusions about him on that basis, well, you’d better cry about it. Because it will. Especially considering the large body of Swedish law that makes a back-door extradition to the US extremely unlikely, whatever Crikey and justice 4 Assange claims.

  5. Warren Joffe

    Here’s a scenario which, with say a 10 per cent probability, would be enough for me, if I were Assange, to head for Ecuador asap.

    He is taken to Sweden and from there “lent” to the US which, after all, has much more serious complaints against him than the Swedish ones for which he hasn’t even been charged. Bradley Manning’s trial is timed for after Assange’s rendition to the US so he can get his plea deal done in the most favourable circumstances for him, namely that he is not only bad-mouthing Assange while Assange is in the UK but undertaking to give evidence against him when it is certain that the evidence can be heard at a trial of Assange in America.

    Once Assange is in Ecuador he should be almost home and hosed. The only question would be how he reaches Australia (or New Zealand) from there without interception. Mind you it might be a good idea to wait in New Zealand until our next federal election is over. It could suit the Coalition for the Gillard government hit rock bottom by handing over Assange to the US and make it totally and universally despised. Though it is a bit hard to see how Assange could be extradited from Australia unless something really foolish in our Free Trade Agreement with the US has opened him up to some prosecution for hacking or a copyright “offence”. [I am open to contradiction but does anyone know enough to counter my suspicion that the abject performance of Australian negotiators on the Free Trade Agreement, including on intellectual property in particular, was made more likely by the minor issues being raised by some of our software writers and pop musicians who wanted better copyright protection – for which, admittedly, one can have some sympathy though most of copyright law is a fraud on the public].

  6. Warren Joffe

    @ Andrea2012

    If you are right about Germany’s refusing to extradite (though it presumably is party to the kind of procedure that Sweden is using within the EU) that could be a good starting point for us. I would like to see a simple enactment that said “any Australian resident may choose, instead of extradition, to be tried in Australia for the equivalent offence” with consequential provisions for rules of court, etc.

    @ Paperchaser

    Your opinions and prejudices are somewhat more evident than your authority to assert what you do assert. I would be interested to know about “the large body of Swedish law” and am, as it stands, not inclined to take your assertion as all that is needed because I find it extraordinary that you should so lightly dismiss the fears of Assange that he could be prosecuted and gaoled in America for a very long time – not least when, though it adds little, for doing something he conscientiously thought right, and which many others agree was, on balance, a good thing and honestly motivated.

    You say “There’s sufficient indications that Assange may have committed assaults that now there’s a transparent extradition process to a civil law country with world-beating legal standards to interview him about the allegations.” What do you mean by “world beating legal standards” and what is your evidence for it, especially in the light of Rundle’s description of the set up there? And do you seriously think that Australia should be happy about a citizen of our country who would be entitled to know the charges against him, to be given bail and to a public hearing before an independent judiciary and, ultimately a jury of 12 if it got to trial, being sent off to a country where the language spoken is not English (though admittedly his interrogators would probably speak a more comprehensible brand than that of say an Alabama jury) and the law uses unfamiliar principles? And where the Swedish authorities have already two big counts against them, one being their refusal to question him (which is allegedly all they want to do) in the UK, that must raise suspicion. I can understand your responding “tough luck” if Assange was getting extradited to Sweden from Australia by our rules given that he had played round with Swedish girls in Sweden and there would have had to be a statement of the case against him which would make it a case which could be a crime in Australia. But Rundle has shown that to be far from the case. What do you know that we don’t?

  7. Warren Joffe

    FWIW let’s grant that Julian Assange would irritate us more than Hawke, Kennett, Abbott, Winston Churchill, Ron Paul, Trotsky (I am sure you can name a better list of noisy people drawing attention to their own take on life, politics and everything) and I daresay there is a good chance that he could be convicted by an American jury of one of those conspiracy charges American prosecutors so love since they forgot Magna Carta. A good patriotic American jury might be inclined to believe that he, not a journalist according to the prosecutor and therefore not protected by any freedom of the press principle, effectually conspired with Manning to steal, for the purposes of making known to unauthorised persons of any nationality, American government docs and info and all they might need would be Manning’s evidence that JA encouraged him and provided him with help in decrypting some of the material or some other technical advice – or just reference to someone who could give him that advice (“well that’s the sort of problem I always go to Jimmy Ferrett’s articles for”). So…. fairly and squarely,*unless he did actually conspire in the US with Bradley Manning and was caught in the US*, why should any Australian not want its government to protect JA from rendition to the US and prosecution when he hasn’t committed any offence against Australian law (or interests arguably – and anyway exposed a great crime that the US was covering up)? And, for that matter, why should an Australian government not try and protect Australian citizens from being incarcerated in other countries, even the UK, in order to allow the dubious extraditions that the awful Tony Blair facilitated (cf. the NatWest Three to and in Texas for something which they did in the UK and wasn’t a crime there and the use of the European Arrest Warrant by any old prosecuting authority so someone can be questioned and tried in secret etc. … by that world class Swedish system of course)? Let’s suppose it was Romania where he needed an interpreter to talk to the police, prosecutor and judge and the offence was facilitating the secret filming of disgracefully run Romanian orphanages and publishing the videos on the http://www….. We should constantly be improving our standard of “fair trial” which prevails in Australia. Why should we complacent and complaisant about Australians being subjected to a perverted or merely defective brand or inadequate instance and application of criminal justice?

  8. Are you free?

    @Jimmy 9:19

    “To all those who claim Assange hasn’t committed an offence I say if you are right why is he worried?”

    Because the US Government has a history of behaving like a lawless corporate psychopath.

    “If he hasn’t breached a US law then how can they extradict and charge him?”

    Concoct espionage charges using that medieval, undemocratic vehicle, the grand jury. Alternatively, kidnap (render) him. The Swedish Government has form for willingly participating in this type of human rights abuse.

    “As Bob Carr pointed out last night it may actually be easier for the US to get Assange from the UK if they wanted him.”

    Carr’s less trustworthy than a used car salesman in this matter. Jennifer Robinson and Assange’s other lawyers say the opposite. I know whom I’d believe.

    “And even if he hasn’t committed an offence and the US still can/will extradict him was that consequence complete foreign to him at the time he made the decision?”

    So all of us mere subjects must take pains not to ever offend our totalitarian overlords? As other posters have repeatedly tried to get through your head, publishing secrets is not a crime.

    “To me we have to alternative points of view one rel ies on a conspiracy between the US, the UK and Sweden and the other means that Assange is wanted for questioning over a se xual assualt, what is the old saying about chosing between a conspiracy and a f..k up?”

    Every extra piece of information shifts the odds further and further in favour of conspiracy, e.g. the way that the prosecution was restarted, the deleting of tweets and texts, the DNA-less condom.

    “And has anyone really stopped to ask what are the impacts on the US of chosing to charge Assange and not? Does anyone really think they will risk the backlash?”

    They didn’t seem to care about any backlash from the War on Terror®.

  9. shepmyster

    Paperchaser your statement that there is “sufficient indications” that Assange “may” have committed assaults is I think the reason the matter should have gone no further than a British police station.
    From the legal opinion I read the consensus seems to be that in Australia as in Brittan that no charges would have been laid given physical evidence held by Swedish Police (for which there appears to be none) or the statements made by his accusers. This alone should have been enough to prevent extradition. He has stated his willingness to co-operate with the Swedish investigation and I can see no valid reason why this has to be done in Sweden. I see no valid reason to extradite a man that has not even being charged with an offence. If this were another Australian facing the prospect of being extradited to Sweden without charge, how would we re-act? I would hope with outrage!
    Your assertion Assange has compromised Wikileaks by conflating his personal problems with its operations, and statement “he’s willing to cause diplomatic issues between Ecuador, Sweden, the UK and Australia in his own interest”, lacking any objectivity and devoid of any real relevance to the issue at hand. As to the claim that extradition to the US highly unlikely, I find it a flippant remark easily made when not facing the fear of life in an American prison, as to your question regarding if the world is justified in drawing conclusions about him on that basis it surprised me that you didn’t reach the obvious conclusion of NO.

  10. Warren Joffe

    Give up on Jimmy fellers. He may not even know he’s in a hole but, in any case, he will go on digging. He’s a slow learner as well as ignorant. E.g. “but I assume (and am happy to be corrected) the court system would have to become involved prior to extradiction [sic].” Don’t expect him to use words like conspiracy in a way which means anything to anyone but him if he hasn’t yet grasped that the main point of the argument in the UK courts was premised on the fact that the Swedish courts had had NO relevant involvement!!! (And wouldn’t have unless he was, eventually, charged in Sweden with an offence).

    As for the appeal to that vague description “conspiracy theory” it is just a substitute for actually dealing with the fairly precise description one can gather from this blog about what might reasonably motivate Assange to treat himself as in serious danger of unjust imprisonment for a long time. Anyone with the slightest experience of insitutional behaviour knows how often people behave much worse when working for an institution (even one with principles that should inhibit their bad behaviour) than they would for themselves. It derives no doubt from our ancient tribal origins. It can be exemplified by such everyday realities as an ATO officer telling lies in the witness box, and of course, the omerta practised by fellow servicemen and fellow police. If you want a taste of reality in the way injustice comes about in the US courts (where 250 prisoners have been released after long sentences served on the basis of DNA evidence which proved that they couldn’t have committed the crime) read Richard Lewontin’s piece in the current New York Review of Books. He quotes, inter alia, some horrifying examples of prosecutors (including women) protecting their conviction records by refusing to act on certain proofs that the wrong man has been convicted (in one case because the actual perpetrator was dead so couldn’t be prosecuted).
    And if you read a current Economist blog you will see a large contingent of Indians and Indian-Americans who are convinced that Rajat Gupta was unjustly stitched up for insider trading in a case where his defence is plausibly said to have cost $30 million. I think they are probably both wrong and careless with the facts but one shouldn’t be so naive as to think that submitting oneself to trial (or in Assange’s case incarceration while interrogated) is other than something to be resisted strongly if one is innocent.

  11. Jimmy

    Are you free – The moderator is a bit like parliament you can’t say l i e.

    Michael De Angelos – “We could well say the same of Assange-he is paying the price of delivering the message although everyone who also delivered the message ; NYTimes, SMH, Daily Telegraph remain scot free.” And so does Assange – as you point out he hasn’t been charged with anything, he is wanted for questioning regardng a completely different matter.

    Shepmyster – “Jimmy. In your own words, I assume that he will be charged with offences that the prosecution believe they can prove. In making that statement you assume it’s proper for a government to seek extradition of a person, by their own admission lack enough evidence to lay charges” In regards to Sweden the UK courts (not the govt) have approved the extradiction and as yet the US have not laid charges or sought extradiction. The US will have to make a compelling case to get extradiction and will not be able to hold Assange without charge.
    As for your question, I clearly pointed out that it would be impossible for me to go without a passport but I played along with your flawed question and also I would not be arrested on arrival as I would not be able to leave the country without a passport.

    Honey – “if he ends up in a US court he will be facing crimes that are yet to be handed down by a grand jury ” How will he get to the US court without the charges? And even if he does get charged and extradicted that doesn’t mean he will automatically be found guilty, he then gets a court case. Do you think the US don’t have a right to prosectue those who they believe (and have reasonable evidence) have broken a law of their country?

  12. Peter Ormonde

    Jim:

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/revealed-us-plans-to-charge-assange-20120228-1u14o.html

    Have a look at that after the moderator has finished with it.

    Gillard – or rather, the Australian Government – does in fact have a role to play in this sort of process Jim. They are just choosing not to fulfil their obligations to him.

  13. Warren Joffe

    I suspect Jimmy has had some glancing acquaintance with legal practice or legal studies. If so he might have come across the witness, sometimes called “non-responsive” in his answers who baffles everyone, judge and counsel especially, by his posing the difficult question “Is he stupid or is he sly?”.

    Consider “Pete – Is the grand jury indictment secret – the US ambassador has said he has never heard of one, neither has Bob Carr who has some considerable knowledge of the US.

    And it doesn’t matter what Gillard or Joe Biden has said about the matter because they have no role to play in the judicial process.”

    There you have it. Right on the face of it. It doesn’t matter what Gillard or Biden say because they have no role in the judicial process but it does matter what the US ambassador and Bob Carr say despite their having no role in the judicial process.

    He can’t really be so thick as to suppose he is saying (reiterating) something true and significant when he asserts that the case he disagrees with depends on “[the US having] bent 3 other govts to it’s will and 2 international judicial systems plus it’s own “. That truly abysmally silly bit of rhetoric ignores the realities of why governments act or don’t act. Alternative explanations include the proven reality that Gillard and her government regard Assange as an enemy without any prompting from any other government and therefore are failing to do anything to ensure that an Australian citizen is fairly dealt with. The UK government appears to have left the matter entirely to its courts which knocks out another of Jimmy’s absurd hypothetical premises. As for Sweden prudence by Assange needs no more than the fear, well founded on past practice, that it may in due course find it convenient to send Assange to the US as a guarantee of continued access to, inter alia, US intelligence about its northern neighbour Russia against which it has always been heavily armed. So far also, the judicial system of Sweden (apart from the system which includes, objectionably to Australian ideas, the prosecution) has had no part in the matter and no one is suggesting for a moment (deny it Jimmy if you can) that the UK proceedings have been influenced by the US.

    So, to Jimmy, get out of the pile of horse manure you have built and tell us “What would you do in Assange’s position?”
    1. Would you, believing yourself to have done the right thing (and not being obviously deluded in so thinking), put yourself at risk of imprisonment for a very long time in the US with the special isolaton that is applied to those convicted of espionage?
    2. Would you be reasonably sure that the Swedish justice system would deal with you in a way that an Australian citizen accused of doing whatever it is suggested he did in Australia would accept as just?
    3. Would that assurance not be affected by the failure of the Swedish prosecutor to ask questions of you when she hasn’t got you imprisoned without bail in Sweden and what confidence and reason for confidence would you have that the Swedes would not render you to the US for trial for espionage?
    4. Would you be happy to accept the US’s extra-territorial reach whereby the US could grab you and punish you for something you didn’t do in the US and not on a battle ground where anti-US warfare was being conducted which was arguably the case with some of those captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

  14. Warren Joffe

    @ CliffG – have a look at my questions to Jimmy now that you have got on his bandwagon – or are the kindergarten teacher alter ego of Jimmy.

    Please drop the kindergartener’s “he should take responsibility” which might be OK for someone accused of throwing a hard object in the sandpit and being sent to the head of kindergarten for a tap with a feather. Try thinking about the realities. Learning a bit about them first would help. I write as one quite capable of being a good old-fashioned parent who understands that their children may have to learn from some hard knocks and reality checks. But you write as if you don’t understand the stakes at all.

    Indeed Assange “has made his own choices” [though you omit to mention that it is only about things he can control and not about having to put up with other people’s ruthlessness and dishonesty] and one of them now is that he would prefer to be a refugee seeking political asylum than risk his freedom amongst the big beasts who abhor Wikileaks. Of course he wouldn’t have learned anything about that in your kindergarten. Reading some of the leaked cables might teach you a bit about the real world of adults too. And you might like to consider whether you think a government which wanted to cover up the murder of a whole lot of Iraqi civilians anda couple of Reuters employees by American soldiers in a helicopter is one that you think anyone should risk submitting to so you can be tried for exposing it.

  15. Peter Ormonde

    Yep Jim… let’s assume – just for a moment – he did. He’s wanted for questioning. He offered to answer questions – in Britain. Not good enough said the Swedish coppers. We want him arrested – for questioning, and brought back here. This, by the way, is after one judicial process found insufficient evidence of any crime having been committed – even under Sweden’s rather bizarre legal code. Not good enough said the Swedish Government – let’s get an ex-pollie appointed judge to re-open the investigation.

    So now we have it that a bloke who has not been actually charged – with anything at all – is held under house arrest in England – on bail (not sure how that works without a charge) while the English law lords do a Pontius Pilate act and decide that a police warrant is OK grounds for extradition. And the Australian government gives him “full consular support” by er… pronouncing him guilty of …well, something.

    And the US – who have been shown to be wearing no undies on this matter of National Security again and again – a furious and want him to be Gitmo’d.

    But this is the Law you reckon … that the important issue here is our delightful PM and that secret trials, imprisonment without charge or trial, secret charges and the like is all quite kosher and acceptable.

    Enough. Lest I rekindle my campaign to overturn Howard’s nanny state gun laws and go a bit vigilante. What else does one do when the law is simply thrown away by those charged with protecting and defending it (and us) from abuse.

  16. Julian Fitzgibbon

    @Jimmy “Again what if and just if Assange did Assult those girls in Sweden?”

    Frankly, who cares?
    Allow me to quote from the deposition of Ms W (warning, it appears that the prosecutor inserted additions to that which Ms W signed, so not all of the following may be her description)

    “They were let into the cinema by Sofia’s colleague and Julian held Sofia’s hand. In the darkness of the cinema he started kissing her. A few latecomers arrived and sat behind them and so they moved to a row at the back. Julian continued kissing her, touched her breasts under her jumper, undid her bra, unbuttoned her pants, caressed her buttocks, and sucked her nipples. He muttered about the armrest being in the way. She was sitting in his lap when the lights went on and he tried to put her bra back on. She thought it embarrassing to sit there in view of her colleagues who she knew could have seen it all.
    …..
    Julian and Sofia walked up Hornsgatan towards Slussen and from there to the old town. They sat by the water at Munkbroleden and he commented on girls who sat there as ‘lonely and abandoned’ and who ‘probably need saving’. They lay down and starting making out, heavily. Amongst other things he put his hands under her jumper and when they left the area she noticed people were looking at them. They decided to go home to her place. They went into the subway where his card was now invalid and she got him through by swiping her own card twice. They took the train to Enköping from the central station, she paid for the tickets, SEK 107 (~$10) each. He claimed he didn’t want to use his credit card, he didn’t want to be traced. They sat in the direction the train would move all the way back in the car. Julian connected his computer and started reading about himself on Twitter on the computer and on the phone. He devoted more attention to the computer than he did to her.
    …..
    When they want back in the bedroom Julian stood in front of Sofia and grabbed her hips and pushed her demonstratively down on the bed, as if he were a real man. He took off his clothes and they had foreplay on the bed. They were naked and he rubbed his p-nis against her nether regions without penetrating her but he got closer and closer to her slit. She squeezed her legs together because she didn’t want s-x with him without protection. They carried on for hours and Julian couldn’t get a full er-ction. Julian had no interest in using a condom.
    …..
    Suddenly Julian said he was going to go to sleep. She felt rejected and shocked. It came so suddenly, they’d had a really long foreplay and then nothing. She asked what was wrong, she didn’t understand. He pulled the blanket over himself, turned away from her, and fell asleep. She went out and got her fleece blanket because she was cold. She lay awake a long time wondering what had happened and exchanged SMS messages with her friends. He lay beside her snoring. She must have fallen asleep for later she woke up and they had s-x. She’d earlier got the condoms and put them on the floor by the bed. He reluctantly agreed to use a condom even if he muttered something about preferring her to latex. He no longer had an er-ction problem. At one point when he mounted her from behind, she turned to look at him and smiled and he asked her why she was smiling, what she had to smile about. She didn’t like the tone in his voice.

    They fell asleep and when they woke up they could have had s-x again, she’s not really sure. He ordered her to get water and orange juice. She didn’t like being ordered in her own home but thought ‘whatever’ and got the water and juice anyway. He wanted her to go out and buy more breakfast. She didn’t want to leave him alone in the flat, she didn’t know him well enough, but she did it anyway. When she left the flat he lay n-ked in her bed and was working with his phones. Before she left she said ‘be good’. He replied ‘don’t worry, I’m always bad’. When she returned she served him oatmeal, milk, and juice. She’d already eaten before he woke up and spoken with a friend on the phone.

    The Assault

    They sat on the bed and talked and he took off her clothes again. They had sex again and she discovered he’d put the condom only over the head of his p-nis but she let it be. They fell asleep and she woke by feeling him penetrate her. She immediately asked ‘are you wearing anything’ and he answered ‘you’. She told him ‘you better not have HIV’ and he replied ‘of course not’. She felt it was too late. He was already inside her and she let him continue. She couldn’t be bothered telling him again. She’d been nagging about condoms all night long. She’s never had unprotected s-x. He said he wanted to come inside her, he didn’t say when he’d done it but he did it. There was a lot running out of her afterwards.

    She told him what happens if she gets pregnant. He replied that Sweden was a good country for raising children. She told him jokingly that if she got pregnant then he’d have to pay her student loans. On the train to Enköping he’d told her he’d slept in Anna Ardin’s bed after the crayfish party. She asked if he’d had s-x with Anna but he said Anna liked girls, she was l-sbian. But now she knows he did the same thing with Anna. She asked him how many times he’d had s-x but he said he hadn’t counted. He also said he’d had a HIV test three months earlier and he’d had s-x with a girl afterwards and that girl had also taken a HIV test and wasn’t infected. She said sarcastic things to him in a joking tone. She thinks she got the idea of taking the drama out of what had happened, he in turn didn’t seem to care. When he found out how big her student loan was he said if he paid her so much money she’d have to give birth to the baby. They joked that they’d name the baby Afghanistan. He also said that he should always carry abortion pills that actually were sugar pills.”

    I am sorry Jimmy, I couldn’t care less whether Ms W’s story is true or not. Aside from a recommendation not to date Julian Assange, I have never read anything more trivial and utterly boring in my life.

  17. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy (still digging)

    “What if Assange did “assault” those girls in Sweden?” There are at least two answers to your trivial diversion from the serious.
    1. We know that he had consensual sex with both females. There has been no version provided which appears to be one which would get him before a court in Australia so as an Australian he is surely entitled to regard himself as innocent of crime in a moral sense and therefore under no moral duty to submit himself to a system such as the Swedish one if he can avoid it. A fortiori when, contrary to Australian law and custom, he hasn’t been charged with anything.

    Anyway, his guilt or innocence according to Swedish law has nothing to do with the inferences which may be drawn from the Swedish failure to get his version from him before insisting that he be brought to Sweden so that he can be asked questions under he coercion of incarceration without possibility of bail. Bad faith and, anyway, not the Australian way an Australian is entitled to regard as his standard of justice.

    2. Your question raises a comparison between the consequences of his having failed to use a condom when requested and not being punished for something which would, probably, not be a cime he could be convicted of in Australia and the consequences of his being extradited to the US with a probability which is not totally negligible. A couple of Swedish girls who had consensual sex with him, have made and withdrawn and changed their allegations, would be left without some sort of revenge (for something: not being his only bedmate?) which looms so large again as a goal in this post-Christian age. On the other hand a man who has exposed US crimes outside the US is rendered to the US and subjected to a harrowing, unproductive and ruinously expensive few years at best and incarceration almost incommunicado for decades at worst. That the primitive medieval grand jury system has been grinding away to present him with supposedly incriminating documentation that would take months or years to read as soon as he hits US territory cannot be doubted in the absence of a plausible explanation for all the leaked, legitimately published and circumstantial evidence about it. Obviously the US Justice Dept and FBI don’t think the First Amendment applies to him and are you seriously suggesting that he should be acquiescent in becoming the protagonist in a great and famous case which, after several years of incarceration, might prove that it did protect him? Not really are you? And even if there were only a 10 per cent chance (and I would be one with Assange in rating it much much higher) of the US rendition scenario being the actual one do you really want to ensure that a couple of Swedish bedmates of his can get to give evidence in camera before politically appointed judgs, without a jury, so he can be given one of those mild Swedish custodial sentences for a year or two?

  18. Jimmy

    Are you free – “how about the NDAA declaring the whole world a battlefield, with the US government being entitled to arrest and hold anyone, without charge, indefinitely and with no legal representation? Combined with the subpoenaing of witnesses to the grand jury and the FBI attempts to turn his associates informant, are you denying that he has reason to worry?”
    Well given “A federal court issued an order blocking the indefinite detention powers of the NDAA for American citizens after finding it unconstitutional. On May 16, 2012, in response to a lawsuit filed by journalist Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf and others[23], US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled the NDAA 2012 violates the 1st and 5th Amendments. Issuing a preliminary injunction prevents the US government from enforcing section 1021 of the NDAA’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by US Congress.”
    It would appear the independent court system is working well to provide checks and balances against the legislature just as it should be and unless he is going to be charged with terro rism (doubtful) I don’t think the NDAA will effect him.
    And I doubt he is going to be held “without charge” if they are “subpoenaing of witnesses to the grand jury”

    And I am far from an expert but given the case against Assange seems to be that he had s-x with the women without wearing a condom against their wishes how does a DNAless condom help?

  19. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    I’ll give you credit for being able to do better if you stop to think. So, next time before you say something like “And if I go about lopping heads of people in Germany and then ask the govt to ensure the German govt doesn’t charge me with murder, if they refuse can I then claim “abandonment”? do stop and, if your own thinking doesn’t suffice, get help. Why? Because you start your analogy with admitting an actual crime which is not the case for JA. More important in logic: the Gillard government is not being asked to get Sweden or the US not to charge JA with crimes. It was asked only to indicate that it would do the absolute minimalist requesting of two things, imprisonment to be served in Australia and no rendition from Sweden for something the Australian government wouldn’t extradite JA for.

    On the lack of consular support I am simply relying on the absence of any denial of JA’s own clear assertions to Fran Kelly on ABC RN. He said he had no contact from the Australian High Commission staff since September 2010. He also said that the supposed consular support was in the shape of text message asking whether Mr Assange had any problems. If you seriously think a serial obfuscator of the truth (and worse) like the engaging Mr Carr can claim more why don’t you rush to his defence with an FOI request. I wonder what inferences you will draw from the failure to rush you an answer within far less than the statutory limit. None at all judged by your willingness to give the Swedish prosecutor (the one who hasn’t dropped the case) the benefit of all doubt when she neglects to question JA in the UK.

    You appear to be a bit of a bush lawyer so I daresay that you are aware of the principle that failure to deny something when it is to be expected that it would be denied if not true is evidence that it is not untrue. I can think of plenty of possible exceptions but this is not one of them.

  20. Jimmy

    Warren Joffe – Here is the PM today “Consular officials have dealt with Mr Assange’s legal team. They’ve certainly been available to meet with Mr Assange face to face had he wished that to occur.”
    “In the course of these legal proceedings, my advice is consular officials have been in contact with his legal team and Mr Assange has not requested or sought for those dealings to be directly with him.”
    “Mr Assange has received continuing consular assistance in exactly the same way any Australian citizen facing legal issues would.
    “The assistance to Mr Assange has included consular officials being in attendance at court for each day of the proceedings of his legal matters. Consular staff have been in contact continuously with his legal team.”

    Honey – No I haven’t written him off as guilty, all I have done is suggest that the judicial system take it’s course. He has not been charged with anything in either the Sweden or the US and there is no extradiction papers issued by the US. SO currently the Swede’s have legally requested him to rreturn, he has had a fair hearing in the UK, when he gets to Sweden if he is charged he will have a fair trial there, if the US requests extradiction there will be further legal proceedings, if he actually gets extradicted there will be further legal proceedings before we get to a point where he will even face a trial. This isn’t a case of him being black bagged!

    As I have said this “conspiracy theory” doesn’t just incolve 4 govts but also 3 different independent judicial systems being pawns of their govts.

    As for the question regarding the death penalty the govt is on record as saying they oppose extradiction where the death penalty is involved.

    Also the women involved have a right to justice just as the US has a right to prosecute any breach of a law (if this has actually happened)

  21. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    So now the PM has apparently trying to improve on her Foreign Minister’s efforts. It looks as though the true position may be that, contrary to what Carr at least implied, DFAT has been about as useless as usual in Assange’s case.

    “As for the question regarding the death penalty the govt is on record as saying they oppose extradiction [sic] where the death penalty is involved. ” So what? You are not helping your case. That applies to extraditions from Australia which won’t take place without an undetaking on behalf of the foreign government that the death penalty will not be sought. The only way it could be relevant is if, contrary to its hands-off spproach, the government were to ask the Swedish government not to consider an extradition to the US unless such an undertaking were given. (I would be surprised if there wasn’t already such a rule in Sweden, indeed in the whole EU, but I haven’t heard any such assertion or defence of its own inaction from our government).

    And please. Stop remind us that you are blabbering out of your depth. If you haven’t even noticed yet that the word is “extradition” not “extradiction” and looked it up to check the inference is inescapable: you don’t read and pay attention to what people who know what they are talking about (as well as some who don’t) are saying.

    Again, you say carelessly “the Swedes right to interview him in person” which avoids the point that they could have done just that it the UK. Haven’t you actually noticed that the Swedes want to be able to interview him, not just in person, but locked up in Sweden? Can’t you even see that it matters?

    Yet again: are you paying attention “As I have said this “conspiracy theory” doesn’t just incolve 4 govts but also 3 different independent judicial systems being pawns of their govts.” Yes you have said it before, and worse, and you have been comprehensively demolished. Haven’t you noticed?

    So, Jimmy: let’s keep it simple.
    1. What should Julian Assange do and why? In answering explain the difference in consequences of different courses and the conflicting principles involved and state the weight and importance you give to different consequences. You may include scenarios of marginal probability such as the slight one that JA is attempting to avoid a course which would make him a martyr for a worthwhile cause (cf. Aung San Suu Kye or Nelson Mandela) but perhaps we can agree that preserving Wikileaks is not worth a 30 year gaol sentence.
    2. What should the Australian government do to allay the fears of an Australian citizen who has reason to fear rendition to the US and lengthy incarceration there? Should it withhold support because he has embarrassed an ally with disclosures of its crimes and manoeuvrings? Why shouldn’t it express loudly and clearly its disapproval of the prospect that Sweden might send JA to the US and that the US might prosecute him for something that the New York Times gets away with scot free? What is the cost to Australia of our government doing that right now even if, as you think, it is possible that the US is not out to get JA?

  22. Julian Fitzgibbon

    @Jimmy “The difference between what I am suggesting and what you assert about the USSR and China is that we are talikng about countries where the legal system is seperate from the govt.”

    The legal systems in the USSR and China were/are separate from the government also. The Stalinist constitution was probably one of the best written constitutional documents in the history of the world.

    You are surely are having a bit of a giggle when you pretend to believe that courts in democracy are perfect instruments of justice.

    Take Peter Slipper, if he didn’t have the weight of government behind him how was he going to get hold of all the incriminating SMSs and emails the Government have been gleefully waving around?
    There are clear signs of collusions been Ms Anna Ardin and an individual member police. There are clear signs of altering the protocol Ms Wilen gave the police. There are clear and unambiguous testimony that Ms Wilen told multiple friends she did not want the police to charge Assange. There is clear and unambiguous that Ms Wilen was so distressed by hearing an arrest warrant was being issued that she was unable to have her testimony read back to her and approve it is normal protocol. There is clear and unambiguous forensic evidence that the condom of Ms Ardin was never graced with the presence of Julian Assange’s engorged member. There is clear and unambiguous exchanges between members of the police ordering the altering of Ms Wilen’s testimony to make it look more incriminating. There are good indications that Ms Ardin only made her complaint after being informed it appeared the information supplied by Miss Wilen would not warrant charges being laid.

    If democracies are such perfect instruments of justice as you pretend to believe, why has Ms Nylander not been forced to resign? Why is there no Swedish Royal Commission into the systemic corruption in the police?

    Why is the Swedish government waving texts and emails and phone records around between the various parties to the complaint, the same way Nicola Roxon is with Peter Slipper?

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