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.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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