Aug 21, 2012

Trying to remain civilized on the Assange allegations

It's possible to be take allegations of s-xual misconduct against Julian Assange seriously, while still being concerned about the US government campaign against him.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Like many things about Julian Assange, the issue of the allegations against him tends to be divisive. There are some who think any mention of the allegations is evidence you're a tool of the United States and its agenda to secure and execute Assange. Others suggest that to in any way support Assange or to believe his fears about extradition to the US have credibility reflects a profoundly misogynist dismissal of s-xual assault as a serious crime. Into this latter camp, presumably, falls State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who yesterday admitted that the US did indeed have a "legal case" against Assange but then tried to backtrack from her remarks, and who today claimed Assange "... is making all kinds of wild assertions about us when in fact his issue with the government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he's going to face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, it has to do with charges of s-xual misconduct". Assange, as has been repeated ad nauseum, has not been charged. Into this vexed issue of geopolitics, the global transparency movement, criminal justice and s-xual politics overnight lumbered George Galloway, British MP and noted friend of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad, although Galloway perhaps no longer feels that Syria is lucky to have the latter as its president, as he used to. S-x with a sleeping woman wasn't r-pe, insisted Galloway in discussing the case of Assange. "This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion." Galloway, you might be surprised to know given such remarks, these days fronts the "Respect Party". Coming three days after Republican Todd Akin explained how "if it's a legitimate r-pe, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down", it was a neat example of how the far left and far right can bend around and join up with each other. This isn't merely the latest version of the long-time clash on the Left between traditional left-wingers focused on class and geopolitical issues and progressives who have broader concerns than middle-aged white males, such as gender issues (yeah, I know, but stereotypes save time). Galloway's drivel is reflective of a mindset of some WikiLeaks supporters, which on occasion has extended to attacking the female complainants: you're either for or against Julian, and everything else flows from there. The criticism from WikiLeaks opponents that such accusations directed against a conservative figure would never be challenged in the same way has more than a grain of truth. Despite all this, it's possible to be concerned about the allegations levelled at Assange and want them resolved one way or another, and still believe the man is at risk of extradition to the US by the Swedish government for his journalism. They're not mutually exclusive. This is why Sweden's refusal to interview Assange for a second time in the UK over the last 18 months is immensely frustrating. Swedish prosecutors are ready to travel elsewhere to interview other suspects in other cases, but Assange is apparently a special case who can only be further interviewed in custody. Or Sweden could undertake not to extradite Assange for any charges related to his work as a journalist, which is only a mild restatement of existing European Union policy on non-extradition for political offences. This would remove the impediment to Assange going to Sweden to assist further with inquiries and remove any further excuses for Swedish prosecutors, who have already interviewed him once, for not charging him if they have a case. In which event, the label of accused r-pist that Assange will otherwise carry for the rest of his life will be removed, as will the restrictions that confine him to a small room in the Ecuadorian Embassy and which have, along with the US-orchestrated financial blockade, helped bring the work of WikiLeaks to a near-standstill. But that's assuming the governments of Sweden, the US, the UK and, for that matter Sweden, are quite happy to see Assange go free and resume his globe-trotting media activities. They might be happy with Julian Assange right where he is confined right now, with allegations of s-xual offences against him permanently unresolved.

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15 thoughts on “Trying to remain civilized on the Assange allegations

  1. puddleduck

    The US could state, once and for all, and even undertake, not to seek Assange’s extradition from Sweden or anywhere else. Heck, the US could disclaim any intention of prosecuting him. But if you were him, would you believe them?

    Assange’s actions have show he has no objection to dealing with the allegations relating to his relations with the two complainants – he stayed in Sweden, he took the STD test (he was under no compulsion to do so), he’s made himself available to be interviewed repeatedly but, as you point out, the Swedish prosecutors can’t stomach coming to the UK to interview him.

    What he quite rightly objects to is being hoodwinked into coming to a UK police station and having the EAW executed, being shipped to Sweden in relation to allegations that have had what even the most generous observer would say have had an interesting history, with the threat of extradition to the US without any due process, where even elected officials have called for him to be shot. For goodness sakes, he’s not Osama bin Laden.

    I’d like to know how this is playing for the US internationally. Doesn’t look like the land of the free and the home of the brave to me.

  2. Liz45

    In Australia, or at least in NSW, being asleep is not a defence to engaging in a sexual act without consent. In fact, my knowledge of the laws in this state assert, that in a heterosexual activity, a woman has the right to say NO at any stage? Therefore, the myth that a man can’t control his urges/activities is no longer a legitimate defence either. The male must ensure that he has permission at all stages? The allegations that Julian Assange is facing are not r**e in its reality – only that he didn’t use a condom and one further allegation of molestation. The facts remain, that he was allowed to leave Sweden even AFTER he offered to go to a said place for interview.

    He left the country and then the whole thing changed. I am not making light of this situation, nor would I make breaks for anyone who was charged with r**e. The role of the women concerned; the role of the Swedish govt/judiciary, together with what the Grand Jury has been doing, combined with the upcoming ‘trial’ of Bradley Manning at least leads to huge questions of injustice and questioning motives of all four countries concerned.

    It must be kept in mind that at least two of those countries have come out and stridently accused Julian Assange of serious crimes with death or a life jail sentence as the probable outcome. These assertions are in complete opposition to any assertions of justice etc. They’re laughable! When I read of the history of repression, oppression of the US on too many occasions, plus the existence of the PATRIOT Act (Obama hasn’t removed it) and the people in opposition to the US who’ve been killed, jailed or ‘disappeared’ to other countries, it’s not adopting a conspiracy theory to question their intentions. Only a naive fool would trust the US, while too many in high places have called for Julian Assange’s death? I may have been a gullible fool once, why I even got up to watch Obama’s Inauguration? won’t be happening again! He was the first and last! Each president has proven to be more menacing than the last! Very scary! If I was Julian Assange, I’d be very scared indeed!

  3. Georgouras Janet

    The case of Ms W and Ms A is unfortunate because of the actions of the Swedish authorities. They have denied these women the process of justice just as they have denied it to Julian Assange. Firstly, in Sweden they revealed the identity of Assange against the law (SFS: 2009:400 Law about Public Access to Information and Security, Chapter 18 and 35).

    It is also important that the case should be addressed immediately so that a person can be detained on a sufficient basis. Ms Ny, the prosecutor, denied the opportunity to interview Mr. Assange after she took over the case on 1 September 2010, even though he was in Sweden until the 27 September 2010, and had already been voluntarily interviewed over the three lesser allegations. When Ms Ny revived the investigations on the 2 September and had re-interviewed one of the complainants she did not act then to interview Mr Assange, which would have been an imperative in such a case (Supreme Court in Sweden NJA 2009 s. 447 I o II and B 2937-10).

    Also another denial of justice was done to Mr Assange by the Swedish police when they interviewed both complainants together allowing the contamination of evidence.
    Ms Ny also used unreasonable and disproportionate powers by enacting a European Arrest Warrant rather than arranging for questioning in Britain using Mutual Legal Assistance, especially in a case where it is one person’s word against another. So, while people keep extolling the virtues of the Swedish justice system, they conveniently ignore the circumstances around this case.

    The question that remains begging is why the Swedish authorities do not question Mr Assange on the matter. They know where he is, they have been asked by the Ecuadorian Embassy to do this but they still unreasonably refuse. (Expert Witness to the British Courts January 2011 and former Chief District Prosecutor in Stockholm)

  4. Dion Giles

    The pressure from the USA to get Assange rendered to a US kangaroo court via Sweden is as transparent as the regime change agenda behind the demand for a no-fly zone over Libya (and now probably Syria). If Assange were accused of a real offence on US soil normal extradition procedures could have been executed long ago. But what he is accused of is blowing the gaff on serious US crimes (and a lot of trivia as well). Some of the more rabid have even muttered about treason. The Americans who want Assange punished ignore in their self-righteous arrogance that America is not Assange’s country. It has no claim on his allegiance. The determination of the British to facilitate his extradition on a shonky EU arrest warrant to stop by in Stockholm on the way to the USA, and of a complicit Australian government to pretend to know nothing about it, speak of a grovelling subservience to an empire that acts as if the whole world is its territory and the world’s people owe it loyalty. As for the Swedes, they have done nothing to demonstrate that that they have a real case over the serious crimes of which he is accused in the arrest warrant, and have done everything to demonstrate that they have none. If Assange and the world could be shown that he could face the music in Sweden (whatever their court decides) and then be free to leave the country no country would be considering for a minute giving him protection to evade it.

  5. Liz45

    @DION GILES – Well said! Thank you! Mind you, I’m also concerned by the practice in Sweden where these sorts of offences are heard in secret. Also, that Julian Assange would probably be denied bail. This seems to be the role of a Court in serious offences such as murder, however it should be noted that a well known case in NSW where the person charged with murder was held in a similar manner to Julian Assange;(who has NOT even been charged?) was allowed to remain in the community without the ID bracelet on his leg after it was found to be faulty – however it wasn’t replaced! Very interesting contrast!

    It seems to me that if we don’t demand the same level of justice for all, our ‘cherry picking’ could come back and bite us on the b*m!

  6. Liz45

    @GORGEOUS JANET – Thank you too. I find it disturbing to say the least. It’s appropriate that we question what’s happening and has happened in Sweden. They need to be asked by all relevant media as to why they won’t travel to London or use technology and question Julian Assange. It must be reinforced that their reluctance not conspiracy theories that is disturbing to many people. If I was Julian, I’d do exactly what he did – if I wanted to stay alive that is?

  7. zut alors

    “… the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”,

    This is true: the primary way is when the female says ‘no’.

  8. Liz45

    @ZUT ALORS – I heard that this morning on AM and repeated on The World Today – isn’t it gross?
    It was news to me? Perhaps that could be investigated and women could use it as a contraception – just think negative thoughts during activities and no pregnancy will result? There’s no limit to these extremists is there? Obama was right about one thing when he voiced his disgust over the comment – men making assumptions etc about women! Fancy that?

  9. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    I like how people who want Assange to return immediately to Sweden think that people who think otherwise believe that he should never face the allegations. CAUSE YEAH, BINARY THOUGHT WOO~

  10. Roberto Tedesco

    George Galloway is not “far left” – just far gone.

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