The arrest of Julian Assange – a reality check

So this is likely to be my most unpopular post to date.

I’ve been watching, with increasing incredulity, the storm that’s hit all forms of the media over Julian Assange, so-called ‘founder’ of Wikileaks*.

It’s probably not necessary, but for completeness’ sake: Wikileaks is an organisation with five paid employees and over 800 unpaid volunteers that describes itself as a ‘whistleblower’. They solicit leaked information, particularly from governments, then assess and publish it. Since 2006 they’ve published everything from Scientology documents to diplomatic cables. Assange has become the ‘face’ of Wikileaks over the years; he’s the one making announcements and answering media questions.

As I write this, Assange is being held by the British judicial system on an Interpol warrant relating to sexual assault charges in Sweden. Inevitably, there are now literally thousands of comments, blogs, tweets and articles flying around screaming, ‘Conspiracy!

Now, my personal jury is out on what Wikileaks do. On the one hand, I see real public good being served in the exposure of things like that horrendous ‘Collateral Damage’ video, which clearly shows a bunch of idiot US soldiers in a chopper egging each other on to gun down an unarmed Reuters journalist and then the good Samaritan who stopped to help him. And I think there is a real need for committed, ethical whistleblowers like Andrew Wilkie. On the other, what good was served by publishing those diplomatic cables – you know, the ones that said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was ‘teflon’, and that Kevin Rudd had told Clinton that if China wouldn’t play ball, the US might have to get tough?

And then on the third hand (yes, yes, I know), what about the fact that every one of these leaks proceeds from an act of theft, of espionage (corporate or governmental)? For that matter, what kind of discretion is used in deciding what to publish?

But leave that aside. That’s a discussion for a whole ‘nother blog post.

What’s astonishing is the extent to which all forms of media – mainstream, new, social – have automatically assumed that (a) the sexual assault charges are bogus; (b) if Assange gets extradited to Sweden he’ll be handed over to the US; and (c) this is ‘really’ about shutting down Wikileaks.

This is a representative sample of some of what’s out there – and I’m not making any of this up.

It’s a beat-up, a set-up, a honey trap! The US paid those two girls to accuse him! If he gets extradited to Sweden on sexual assault charges the US will grab him and whisk him off to Guantanamo Bay where he will be waterboarded until he reveals the identities of everyone who’s ever been involved with Wikileaks. He will have an ‘accident’ in custody. He will be ‘disappeared’.

Meanwhile people are changing their avatars to pictures of him, wondering if they can make t-shirts, tweeting ‘Free Julian Assange’, calling him a hero, a noble crusader, saying he should get an award or even be ‘President of Oz’ … and in an act of ultimate absurdity, last night The Australian published an op-ed piece he wrote. (I’ll say this for The Oz. They never let consistency get in the way of circulation.)

The hysteria is unbelievable. So I’m going to be a bit boring and talk about what’s actually happened, rather than join a wave that’s rapidly heading towards ‘UFOS CONTROL THE GOVERNMENT AND WANT TO KILL ASSANGE’ territory.

So I propose a reality check.

First – and should it even have to be stated? – Assange is not charged with any offences relating to Wikileaks. The charges are two counts of sexual molestation, one of unlawful coercion and one of rape. There are two alleged victims.

Now, Sweden has some pretty intense sexual assault laws, one of which relates to a situation in which otherwise consensual sex becomes coercive when one partner refuses to wear a condom or intimidates a partner into continuing with the act after a condom has broken and the other has said the act should cease. Much has been made of this law; it’s being held up to ridicule as ‘not really sexual assault’, ‘gosh, if I went to Sweden I’d have been charged with rape’, ‘what a beat-up’, etc. The consensus is that such a law is absurd. Well-known Twitter commentator Catherine Deveny even went so far as to urge people not to be ‘distracted’ by this, and to focus on ‘real’ sexual abuse instead.

But wait a minute – whatever people think of this specific law, look at the hypothetical situation being described. One partner has withdrawn consent for whatever reason. Most rape laws in the Western world would agree that at this point, the sex is no longer consensual.

Sounds like sexual assault in my book. With the added risk of a sexually-transmitted infection like chlamydia or HIV.

And we’re not just talking about this law, either. There are four charges, and the full details are not known. There’s a lot of speculation and embroidery going on, based on an article published in the Daily Mail and some comments published by one of the alleged victims in the past. British media now report that the charges include forcing one woman’s legs apart to have sex with her, and taking advantage of the other’s sleeping state to have sex without her consent. It’s the ‘condom law’ that gets the attention, though, and so it’s easy for people to dismiss the whole idea as ridiculous.

Once that’s accomplished, it’s a short step to say that what this is ‘really’ about is the persecution of a whistleblower. The women in the case are correspondingly demonised; either they are disgruntled ex-girlfriends manipulated by the US government (notice how it’s always the US, despite the number of countries Wikileaks has embarrassed), or they are actively involved in the Conspiracy to Destroy the Noble Hero. The net effect is that the message is shaped in such a way as to completely eclipse their case.

Assange himself is complicit in this. When these allegations first surfaced – months ago – he immediately set out to turn the story from possible criminal activity on his part to governmental vendetta aimed at shutting down Wikileaks. When governments do this, it’s called spin. When Assange does, it’s called ‘exposing the truth’.

With the message under control, every subsequent action becomes subject to the same colouration.

Assange surrendered himself to British police, in the company of his legal advisors. This was a voluntary decision on his part; the police were hardly ‘closing in on an international fugitive’. They thought he was ‘probably’ in the country – and it was an open secret among British media that Assange had been spending his time at a journalists’ club in London – but the Sweeney weren’t poised to leap into their cars and chase him down to his lair.

The police, of course, immediately arrested him and held him pending a ‘first hearing’. Of course they did. They had no choice. They had an international warrant to execute, and when you’re talking about a fugitive who has a history of country-hopping and the means to accomplish this, it’s not a matter of booking him and dropping him off at a hotel with a stern admonishment to front up to court. The police had no power to seize his passport; there was literally nothing stopping Assange from absconding.

Turning oneself in is usually regarded as a wise decision. Courts tend to look unfavourably on defendants who’ve tried everything to stay out of the clutches of the law. It’s no different in Assange’s case. Given the nature of the allegations, anything he does to show he is co-operating with the judicial system can only benefit him.

The message is still controlled, though. Assange may have delivered himself up to British police, but his legal team warned that they would fight extradition to Sweden. The reason? They believe that Sweden would simply hand him over to US authorities. In other words, it’s all a trap.

There is no evidence that this fear is well-founded. The US have not made any representations to Interpol about him. US legal authorities have already made it clear that as far as they can tell, he has not broken their laws.

Oh, but Sarah Palin and her ilk have called for Assange’s assassination. They want to torture or kill him. What the US must ‘really’ be planning, then, is extraordinary rendition – and Assange will disappear into Guantanamo Bay or a secret CIA facility where he will be waterboarded until he tells all.

This is beyond absurd.

At the first hearing, Assange was denied bail because he refused to provide a valid residential address in Britain. When asked, he countered with, ‘Why do you want it? For correspondence?’ and gave a post office box number. The court explained it had to be a place of residence, and Assange gave an address in Melbourne connected with Melbourne University (his alma mater).

No fixed address, no residence (despite the fact that he has clearly been living somewhere in Britain) – of course they denied bail. But to those devoted to the message, it was simply more proof that it was all a set-up designed to shut down Wikileaks.

His lawyers are doing their job, working hard to cast doubt on the charges. If they were ‘real’, they argue, why don’t the Swedish prosecutors come over to Britain and talk to Assange? The short answer? They’re not required to do so.

As for the idea that this is all about ‘killing’ Wikileaks – well, if that was the plan, it’s failed miserably. The organisation already put out a statement saying that their work would continue – and proved it by releasing more diplomatic cables. I find it difficult to believe that any government plotting the downfall of Wikileaks would be so stupid as to think that arresting one man would do that job.

Maybe Assange is innocent of these sexual assault charges. He’s absolutely entitled to the presumption of innocence, and Swedish courts aren’t exactly known for their corrupt show trials. The Australian government has already provided him with consular assistance – despite the howls of the conspiracy theorists who condemn Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her harsh criticism. He has a brilliant legal team, headed up by Geoffrey Robertson, QC, one of the best human rights lawyers in the world.

And maybe there is an element of vindictiveness at work here. Maybe a couple of ex-girlfriends have decided to punish him, or a government is looking to discredit him. If that’s the case, then the best possible course of action is to front the court with those lawyers and challenge them to prove the allegations.

But let’s not get carried away with conspiracy theories. Let’s not conflate international condemnation from governments directed at Wikileaks with real, specific charges against an individual that have nothing to do with that organisation. Let’s not assume that this is some kind of James Bond or Bourne Identity plot being played out in real life.

In other words, let’s take a breath for a minute. Examine the whole story, separate the man from the message, evaluate what Wikileaks does on its own terms and let Swedish justice take its course.

Above all, let’s not participate in demonising two women who are just as entitled to the presumption of innocence as Assange.

* The base organisation that became Wikileaks existed before Assange came along. When the Wikileaks website was launched in 2006, the founders described themselves as a group of ‘Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa’.

51 Responses to The arrest of Julian Assange – a reality check

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate
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  3. zNelson24 says:

    What really pisses me off about the whole thing is how big media is reporting all this stuff. I’m an American, and there are alot of reporters that is just hating on the guy, with no regards for who he is, or what he does (some don’t even consider him a bono-fide journalist).

    They say he’s hiding from the authorities, when the media are crying “off with his head”. If a nationwide posse is being called upon to have me hunted down, I would be on the run too.

    Because big media have a major influence over the opinions and perceptions of most Americans, a fair trial is near (if not absolutely) impossible. Whose to say a jury won’t have a news article condemming assnge effect their judgement?

    What people need to do is turn off the TV, go outside, and figure out whats going on in the world.

  4. [...] talked about Wikileaks and the best of these can be found at Bartlett’s Blog, eGov AU and The Conscience Vote, as well as Nasking’s excellent blog here at the Café.  I particularly liked the [...]

  5. Ben McGinnes says:

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    I’ve made some comments on the Unleashed copy, but I am not sure when (or even if) they will appear.

    So here’s what I said in my main comment over there:

    It’s good to see at least some people, albeit precious few, not automatically jumping to any of the following assumptions:

    1) The case is part of a US conspiracy to silence Assange and/or WikiLeaks.

    2) Entirely politically motivated (either from US interference or to appease the US by acting unilaterally).

    3) That the alleged victims are lying about what occurred (that’s for a court to decide).

    4) That because of Assange’s role with WikiLeaks it automatically makes him the good guy and he can’t be at fault (the logic of this escapes me).

    There’s a lot we don’t know about this case and there’s a lot that most people don’t know about Assange. As I’ve said many times before, there’s a big difference between the project and the man. Contrary to popular belief, I think it is possible to support revealing truth and secrets without rabidly supporting Assange himself.

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  6. guy rundle says:

    Marian, you’ve misunderstood the nature of the charges against Assange and made factual errors. The four charges as read out in Westminster Court are:

    1) holding parnter down and forcing her legs open for sex – rape

    2) sex without a condom despite earlier assertion by complainant of unwillignness to do this – misconduct/ofredande

    3) pushing erect penis into partners back against her wishes – ofredande

    4) having unsafe sex with partner B while she was sleeping – sexual assault.

    There is no mention of withdrawn consent, or torn condoms in any official document. Charge 2 does not allege withdrawal of consent or non-consent – it alleges that partner had earlier expressed unwillingness or dislike of the parctice, but does not alleged that the act was not consented to at the time it occurs (hence the ‘ofredande/misconduct’ charge which is a misdemeanour.

    4) is not being charged as rape possiubly because there was prior consent to sex, and non-consent or knowledge of non-consent could not be established.

    Charges 2 and 3 were the charges that were not withdrawn initially. Charge 1 is the first time any accusation of physical force has been made. Three days after the women visited the police station they told Aftonbladet newspaper that ‘Assange is not violent…we do not fear him.’ Charge 1 – the only charge which would compel extradition – only appeared in the bail hearing last Tuesday.

    See my articles in Crikey and the Sunday Age for a fuller record. Theres plenty of info around the web about the charges without having to rely on the Daily Mail. You need to amend your story – guy rundle

    • Ben McGinnes says:

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      Guy, I suggest you have a read through the AIFS “Insights into sexual assault perpetration” report:

      http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport18/

      Then go back and read the various reports of statements from the two alleged victims.

      Then reconsider their portrayal by many media outlets currently.

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  7. Cassie says:

    Unpopular? Really? Because it’s the most sensible wrap-up of this whole debacle I’ve seen to date. Well done, and now I’m interested in the rest of what you have to say.

  8. Jason Wilson says:

    They believe that Sweden would simply hand him over to US authorities. In other words, it’s all a trap.

    There is no evidence that this fear is well-founded.

    Here’s some evidence.

    http://is.gd/inh2o

    Does that alter your view?

    • Frankly, no it doesn’t. It’s an unverified report in a newspaper that directly contradicts the statement given today by the Swedish prosecutor. There are no sources and no evidence. It’s little more than rumour at this stage.

      Even if there is any truth to the article, all it says is that the US has apparently approached Sweden – not that there is a conspiracy to entrap Assange.

      As for the claim that there are pending espionage charges – the Secretary of State has already said there is no evidence Assange has broken any such laws. At worst, there might be a case to bring against the organisation for soliciting an illegal act, i.e. encouraging people to disclose proprietary or security information.

      So, until I hear or read a direct quote from the Swedish prosecutor, I’m not inclined to give that article any more weight than one that claims the US government conceals the body of aliens at Roswell.

  9. [...] at what we’re all talking about – whether or not the women made it up. As Marian at The Conscience Vote writes, the condom issue has been used to demonise the women [...]

  10. @Dave

    (grin) I rather thought that might have been the case. Posts crossing in the ether and all. I’d just replied to you, but I trashed the comment.

    I think we’re untangled now …

  11. Emily says:

    Very well said. I’ve been disturbed by the tendancy for even ‘alternative’ media to join in on the OMG Conspiracy line. While it’s interesting that this sexual assault case is getting so much more attention than most others, it’s disappointing to see the same old victim-blaming, manipulative/dishonest female tropes being played out.

    For those who say ‘gosh, if I went to Sweden I’d have been charged with rape’, perhaps that ought to tell them something. The fact that rapists often aren’t charged or convicted doesn’t mean rapes don’t occur. As a friend of mine said, if all sexual assault charges were prosecuted as fully as Assange’s, there’d likely be a lot less of it.

    • David Fawcett says:

      Interesting take Em, the whole “if all rapes were prosecuted as fully as” part.

      There is a very nasty flip side to this coin though. The argument as I understand it is that if contraception isn’t used and a party is deceived into believing that it isn’t required when it probably is then that is rape because there is no consent when one party is deceived.

      Feel free to let me know if this isn’t your position BTW.

      The flip side of that is when a woman claims to be using contraceptives when she is not. By that definition she has raped the man, since he was the one deceived.

      Jail time could be a consequence of breaking this sort of law but the consequence that really makes my skin crawl is the idea of forced abortions.

      Just saying, its tempting to want to protect people who have been duped into making poor decisions, but that sort of nanny state thinking almost always has negative consequences. Think it through and be careful what you wish for.

      • I’m not sure it’s ‘nanny state thinking’ to punish someone who has deceived another, with serious consequences. It’s already illegal in many jurisdictions to have unprotected sex with someone knowing you have HIV or Hep C without disclosing it.

      • David Fawcett says:

        @ Marian

        Yup and we’ve seen those laws abused also, used to further sygmatize those with HIV. I’m not suggesting that this is black and white. It really isn’t.

        At some stage we have to take responsibility for our actions and at some stage the state has to say caveat emptor.

        Or caveat shaggor.. ;)

        I also find it distressing that we can see the word ‘rape’ diluted to include ‘being convinced to voluntarily partake in an sexual activity that is later regretted’.

      • Cassie says:

        “There is a very nasty flip side to this coin though. The argument as I understand it is that if contraception isn’t used and a party is deceived into believing that it isn’t required when it probably is then that is rape because there is no consent when one party is deceived.”

        That happens to be my position regardless of the gender of the perpetrator. Women who lie about being on the Pill risk foisting more unwanted life upon the world, if they don’t decide to abort (and why would they if they used that tactic?). In such a case, absolutely, she’s committed at least sexual assault and should be prosecuted.

        As for forced abortions, assuming a pregnancy has resulted: no. But the unwitting father should be permitted to give up all parental rights, should he so desire, as if he had never conceived at all. The child would be fatherless for all intents and purposes.

      • @ Cassie

        It’s interesting that you’ve approached this from the assumption that men would be satisfied with simply giving up all parental rights and feel no paternal obligation outside of what is proscribed by law.

      • Emily says:

        @ David (Apologies for the tardy response)

        “The argument as I understand it is that if contraception isn’t used and a party is deceived into believing that it isn’t required when it probably is then that is rape because there is no consent when one party is deceived.”

        Not exactly. The charge on this count against Assange is that he did not use a condom when sex was only consensual on the basis that one was used. Assange allegedly reneged on the agreement he made with his partner and forced her into a sexual act she did not consent to. This, if it did occur, was abuse, and ought to be prosecuted.

        (See this article for a fuller discussion of the issue: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/12/13/condom-sabotage-isntjoke)

        Deception of one’s partner – “relax, I’m on the pill”/”I don’t have STDs”/”I’ve had a vasectomy” – is still abhorrent, but is to me in a somewhat different category. As Marion pointed out, there are already laws in place to prosecute those who knowingly spread deadly viruses through unprotected sex, but it is still a different class of act to making a specific agreement and then breaking it without one’s partner’s consent. In regards to potential pregnancy through deception, I don’t quite see the logic in your leap to “forced abortions”. It feels like a deliberately inflammatory statement, akin to opponents of voluntary euthanasia claiming it will lead to “death panels”.

        What I wish for – what I have quite seriously thought through – is a world in which sexual assault is taken seriously as a crime and perpetrators are appropriately charged and punished. I am disturbed by the politicisation of Assange’s arrest, I am profoundly disturbed by the fact that vast numbers of rapes and assaults go uncharged, but I am not at all concerned with the consequences of sexual assaults being prosecuted as they ought.

  12. lilacsigil says:

    Thank you for confirming that Assange is receiving consular assistance. I’ve been concerned about that, considering all the political huffing and puffing about how he’s a terrible, illegal, dangerous person. He may well be a criminal, which is up to the Swedish courts, but not (in Australia) because of Wikileaks.

  13. @ Dave

    Defending oneself is saying, ‘I did not do that. The charges are wrong’. Assange went much, much further than that.

    He tipped off the media as to where and when he would surrender. He’s repeatedly said – both personally and through his lawyers – that this is ‘really’ about persecuting Wikileaks. He sent an op-ed piece to The Australian just before he surrendered reaffirming his argument that it was all about a conspiracy against him.

    This is not simply defending oneself. This is controlling the message – and he has done a brilliant job of it. His lawyers are very, very smart people who are no doubt well aware of the importance of controlling the message – Geoffrey Robertson certainly is! It’s not illegal – it may be ethically questionable, but employing a strategy designed to muddy the waters on potentially damaging criminal charges is not only perfectly valid, but used all the time.

    I will stand corrected on the issue of whether the charges were laid – a quote from a Swedish prosecutor is trustworthy, and thank you for providing it and the source.

    As for not providing his address – he did not say, ‘I won’t provide my address because I am in fear of my life’. Even after it was explained to him that he needed to have a valid residential address in Britain, he refused to provide one. That’s his right, but it’s also the court’s right to then deny bail.

    What proof do you have that there was ‘evidence’ deleted? What ‘evidence’? There was nothing about a conspiracy to destroy Assange’s reputation or make false charges against him. There is nothing evidentiary in an old blog post talking about so-called ‘revenge’ strategies. At best it might be used to discredit an accuser – smearing the alleged victim is a tried-and-true tactic in sexual assault cases. At any rate, nothing is ever ‘gone’ from the internet – the Wayback Archive is proof of that.

    It could be argued that she deleted these posts because they exposed her ‘real’ motivation. It could also be argued that she deleted them because she was afraid that they might be used to undermine her in court, and in the court of public opinion. It’s not unknown for rape victims to attempt to ‘sanitise’ their reputations out of fear that they will not be believed.

    Understand, I’m not saying that’s why she did it – only that it’s just as possible as the more murky explanation.

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that defending oneself or retaining counsel is proof of guilt. I certainly know that I am not doing that. I am, however, pointing out that Assange and his legal team are doing a very good job of controlling the message and muddying the waters. That’s their right. It’s also my right to point it out and call for people to separate the media management from what can be proved and known.

    • OK, I’m not actually going to get into the whole ‘deleted twitter and blogs’ thing and I’m sorry I brought it up.

      It definately strays into the territory of attacking the girls who are bringing the charges and frankly, that isn’t going to be helpful to this dicussion.

      How about we save that for after the trial? ;)

      You know what? At the end of the day here is where I fall on this issue.

      I like that we can chat about this. Throw it backwards and forwards. I like that we have that freedom and frankly with the reaction of the US Government to the whole wikileaks thing does throw a different light on this case.

      I think we can all agree that if it’s wasn’t Assange involved it would be a very different affair. Ff that was the point you were making then fine. Yes he has a talent for presenting his position and speaks well to the media.

      Seeing the media come to his defense like this is actually heartening to me. It so much better than the alternative..

  14. [...] The arrest of Julian Assange – a reality check [...]

  15. Lilitu says:

    Actually he is not facing rape allegations – this is just a beatup. The actual charge is something like “Surprising Sex” – can’t remember the exact translation. The rape charges were dropped. The charge relates to the fact that there was something unusual about the sexual act, not that it was non-consensual. Once again our media, and everyone else’s media, just have to exaggerate and lie.

    • No, the reverse is going on here.

      At the bail hearing the charges on the warrant were read out. They include rape and coercion. Specifically, they include holding one woman down and forcing her legs apart, and taking advantage of another’s sleeping state to initiate sex with her without her consent.

      The media is actually focusing on a single element of the warrant relating to a situation where consent was allegedly withdrawn after a condom broke.

      There is no such thing under Swedish law as ‘surprise sex’ – it is slang for rape when one wants to make light of the idea.

      The warrant is detailed – the media will get far more play out of focusing on the whole ‘condom’ idea, however.

      It’s no different to reporting that when Gillard says, ‘The AFP are investigating whether any Australian laws were broken by Mr Assasnge’, what she was ‘really’ saying was ‘I’m on the ropes here, I don’t know if he broke any laws, you’ve caught me out’. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

    • @Marian

      Can I point out that there is a difference between being wanted for questioning with regards to charges that have been made and actually being charged with a crime?

      That article speaks about allegations and charges that Assange is wanted for questioning in relation to.

      He is yet to be charged with the crimes.

      I’ve provided a quote from the prosecutor of the case stating that he hasn’t been charged yet! I don’t know how else to prove this to you.

      Will he most likely be charged if he returns to Sweden? Probably. The point is that he hasn’t yet been charged and is currently wanted for questioning.

      In order to question him that have refused to come to the Swedish embassy in the UK to question him. They have refused all other offers of co-operation. As the article you just quoted explains.

      It also illustrates that he didn’t conceal his address from them either. Bail was denied for other reasons.

      Where is the presumption of innocence here? Jailed, denied bail and as yet only wanted for questioning on a case that was dropped by the last prosecutor.

  16. Great post Marian. I’ve also been feeling uneasy about this, but perhaps for a different reason.

    Since the ‘collateral damage’ video, the MSM has creamed its pants over anything to do with Assange and WikiLeaks. So it’s not surprising that the charges against Assange have made headlines around the world, in a way that those against Roman Polanski didn’t. I don’t recall politicians calling for Polanski’s assassination for drugging and raping a child and then spending the next 33 years avoiding countries where he might get caught.

    And it all depends on what report you read as to what’s actually going on – I’ve read that Assange fled Sweden, and also, as David Fawcett writes, that Swedish police gave him the OK to leave.

    But – finally – getting to my point. The MSM obsession with anything to do with Assange and anything to do with sex (because the MSM uses sex and sexual assault interchangeably) means we all end up arguing over whether it’s “rape” or “rape-rape” instead of looking closely at the documents that are being released.

  17. @Thorfi

    If this is some kind of CIA plot, it’s the single most hamfisted piece of strategy since Castro’s alleged exploding cigar.

    Think about it. Assume there is a plot to smear Assange and get him within reach of the US. Why on Earth would they pick a woman with known ‘questionable’ views and links to US intelligence to be the major accuser? It’s not like she went out of her way to hide who she is, after all. As a complaining witness, she’s a nightmare.

    And why not go with charges that are more easily provable? Sexual assault charges inevitably devolve into he said/she said without forensic evidence, and it’s difficult to get a conviction. Hell, it’s difficult to even get an accusation as far as a trial – and you can bet that Geoffrey Robertson will be using that strategy to fight extradition.

    And why Sweden? Why not somewhere like Britain, where the extradition laws are simple and straightforward?

    Oh, and Interpol often issues international warrants for everything from tax evasion to sexual assault to robbery to murder. It’s not as drastic as media like to portray it.

    All of which is beside my original point – that this situation must not be assumed to be a fabrication or a conspiracy directed at Wikileaks. If it comes out in the trial that there is a connection, so be it. Then we will know.

    • @thorfi says:

      And the CIA isn’t known for using hamfisted strategy? We are talking about the same organisation, right? Off hook spy organisation, responsible for a whole bunch of dodgy things over the last 50 years, far too numerous to list here?

      As for why not go with charges that are more easily provable? Well, maybe there isn’t any evidence for real misbehaviour, so there’s nothing *to* prove. If there was something, there’d be charges already. There’s a lot of people scratching around trying to find something, anything, to charge him with.

      After all, the US is talking about making laws in order to be able to charge Assange with something, and I somehow doubt they’d be talking about that without there being an issue with charging him with existing laws.

      When all’s said and done, there are definitely abuses of due process going on, and this *is* an extremely unusual case. One could wish that all sexual assault cases were taken this seriously. That there is a very unusual level of attention quite clearly proves that there is something very odd going on in this case.

      In the end, though, I agree with you – the charges should be pursued according to the due process of law, so that we can see if they are true or not. Whether they’re related to Wikileaks or not is not terribly relevant to that.

    • Darsh says:

      We just don’t know at the moment if this trial is a fabrication or part of a conspiracy. But it is possible. And of course the Swedish officials would be talking to the Americans officials behind the scenes. Why shouldn’t we able to talk about this?

  18. Having looked at the substance of the sexual assault allegations, they look unlikely to succeed. The deleted tweets are enough to kill the charges, if nothing else. The blog post one of the victims wrote earlier in the year, about using such allegations to get revenge on a cheating boyfriend, are another considerable dent in the prosecution case.
    I believe its the flimsiness of the prosecution case that has resulted in allegations of the charges being trumped up, rather than the fact the alleged offender is who he is.
    Sexual assault charges are notoriously difficult to convict on, even without the problems in the prosecution case in this instance. It’s therefore highly unlikely Assange will be convicted.

    • The blog post is actually not relevant to the case, any more than Assange’s own history is. Neither can be brought to bear on these charges unless Assange’s counsel alleges a conspiracy stretching back long before the blogger even met him.

      This is why trial by media is so dangerous. A blog post gets found, and automatically the allegations ‘must’ be false. That’s like arguing a woman known to be promiscuous cannot be sexually assaulted – absurd.

      Do I agree with the substance of that blog post? Absolutely not. Is it likely that the charges will be dismissed? Perhaps. Either way, the important thing is that the case should be allowed to proceed without all the associated, irrelevant crap.

      Assange has the best possible lawyer, with good experience dealing with the Swedish legal system and with extradition.

      • On the contrary.
        What happened in a rape situation is very much a “he said, she said” situation.
        If one of the complainants is on the record as saying that such allegations are a good way to get revenge on a partner who is discovered to be cheating – the first complainant has found just that by the existence of the second complainant – then it is very relevant.
        Add to that the deleted Twitter messages which indicate that the first complainant was bathing vicariously in the glory of being in Assange’s company 24 and 48 hours after the alleged assault, and it very much starts to look like an endangered case.
        Now, the first complainant’s disappearance and failure to further cooperate with the prosecutors and her own lawyer, casts a shadow over the veracity of her claims.
        This is not a standard sexual assault case. For anyone to simplify it as such is naive.

  19. Bronwyn says:

    I don’t think the American media are helping people’s opinions on conspiracy when there are open calls for Assange’s arrest and even death in the American media.*

    Personally, I’m appalled that a country that considers itself to have a good human rights record thinks that killing people is a response to everything. The fact that they can publicly call for his death is indicative of how low human lives are valued. It’s a depressing thought.

    *http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/41914.html

    • Oh, absolutely. It’s utterly appalling that public figures like Sarah Palin should be able to call for his assassination without their being consequences. At the very least, it’s incitement to violence on a par with those fundamentalist prechers who don’t actually say that abortion providers should be murdered, but say that they deserve death.

  20. As much as I hate for the facts to get in the way of a good story..

    When the allegations were made Assange remained in Sweden extending his trip by a month in order to answer any questions the Swedish police may have had for him.

    He didn’t flee the country as much as ask the Swedish police if he was going to be charged and if it was OK for him to leave the country. He was given permission to do so.

    The first prosecutor of the case stated that there were no charges that could be brought against him and the case was initially dropped.

    The two girls then retained politically connected council and the case was reopened.

    Julian STILL hasn’t been charged with a crime. Still he’s been arrested, most likely will be denied bail and held for weeks, possibly months while an extradition hearing is held.

    Interpol cannot issue warrants for arrest. What was sent out was a ‘Red Letter’ which essentially Interpol passing on to other nations that Julian was wanted for questioning in Sweden in relation to sex crime allegations.

    As you know I also hate conspiracy theories, but this seems pretty cut and dried to me. I think Jillian has made reasonable efforts to assist the police with their investigation, given them ample opportunity to charge him with the crimes he’s been accused of and now as a reasonable concern that he will not receive a fair trial or fair treatment if he returns to Sweden.

    • There’s nothing cut-and-dried about it. This is a case where an accused man surrendered to police, was denied bail for refusing to provide a valid address, and will face an extradition hearing to answer charges in Sweden (and yes, there are charges laid in Sweden. There is no evidence of conspiracy, no evidence of fabrication, and not one shred of proof that any of this is connected to Wikileaks.

      Let’s see now … if the accused man were an outspoken politician, there would be a presumption of guilt. That would be just as wrong as the presumption that Assange’s situation is the result of a governmental vendetta – but Assange has deftly controlled the message in a way that, say, Bill Clinton never could.

      The initial allegations were not withdrawn by the women, but by the prosecutor for lack of sufficient evidence. This does not render the allegations automatically suspect, and neither does the retention of counsel with political connections.

      You could just as easily argue that Assange, by retaining Geoffrey Robertson as his defence counsel, is being suspicious. After all, there are few lawyers as politically connected as Robertson, the man who wants to sue the Pope.

      I never alleged he fled from Sweden. He is not exactly a stranger to international travel.

      The Swedish prosecutor has said flat out that no government or authority has approached them regarding any kind of handover, to the US or any other country.

      As for the idea that he will not get a fair trial in Sweden – if I were in his shoes, I’d much rather face court in Sweden than in Britain or the US. Sweden is known for its concern with both civil liberties and social justice. To imply that they’re part of a vast conspiracy designed to entrap one man strains credulity.

      • I’m sans internet connect at the moment (using my phone!) so I’m willing to admit that my information may be a little out of date.

        Got anything more recent than this?

        http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/01/assange-is-being-persecuted-in-sweden-lawyer.html

        “Assange is wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. The exact nature of the allegations aren’t completely clear because formal charges have not been filed.”

      • Thorfi says:

        Is it usual to have an Interpol warrant for every single person who is wanted for questioning in regards to a potential rape case?

        Is it usual for every accused rapist to have their bank accounts frozen, and world leaders calling for their death?

        As for the ladies in question, it’s not just some blog posts. At least one of them has already been working with the CIA in very dubious circumstances. You are right, that doesn’t make it impossible she was raped. It does make it a whole lot more likely that it was an “operation”. Assange has been “of interest” for some years now, and there is clear evidence that the US does operate in extra legal fashion, not just crazy conspiracy theory.

        I agree, the due process of law should be followed. It’s pretty clear it had not been so far, hence the concerns.

      • Brett Dalton says:

        Dave to be honest if you look at it, if anything Julian has engineered this publicity quite nicely.

        – He didn’t have to hand himself over to British police, nothing was stopping him traveling back to Sweden and handing him self in there avoiding extradition proceedings

        – He didn’t have to withhold his address and bail may have been granted, as it was the court didn’t have a choice but to hold him.

        – He REALLY didn’t need to retain a really high profile lawyer which is STRONGLY associated with human rights which frames things quite nicely for the media. Regardless if MR Robinson offered or was asked, it does nothing to dissuade the perception of being persecuted.

        It looks a little engineered to me as he had a lot of choices which could have avoided all of this. This is right up there with the recent press conference he gave via Skype to “hide his location”, which as it turns out was an open secret anyway and I’d hazard a guess many of the journos at the presser knew where he was.

      • OK so competently defending himself is suspicious?

        If you look at the facts you’ll see he was accused of a crime 3 months ago, is yet to be charged and is currently being held without charge. He is on record as co-operating with the investigation and then sought permission to leave the country after the case was dropped.

        The two girls who brought the accusations against him (by ‘seeking advice’ rather than actually making a direct accusation – a neat little loophole that means they can’t be charged for bringing false accusations) then retained private council and sought out the media in order to state their case in public.

        None of these facts are disputed – except by Marian who thinks that charges have been laid when they have not. Article from the Australian, from today, with a quote from the Swedish prosecutor: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sex-claim-women-in-julian-assange-case-say-this-is-nothing-to-do-with-the-pentagon/story-e6frg6so-1225967447142

        “It is a matter of fairness. We’re not at a stage yet where Mr Assange is being prosecuted. We are at the stage where his actions are being investigated by police and it is necessary for him to come to Sweden to tell police his story.”

        Now you have the temerity to claim that by cooperating with the authorities, by being open with the media and by retaining council in order to defend himself is somehow engineering events?

        Sounds like yet another conspiracy theory to me.

        Marian’s point that the allegations shouldn’t be a tried in the media is a fair one but Assange didn’t go to the media first.

        Marian’s point that the allegations should be settled in a Swedish court is a fair one but it’s been 3 months of accusations with no charges.

        Marian’s point that the girls shouldn’t be judged without all the facts is a fair one but Assange wasn’t the one who tried to remove evidence by trying to delete twitter and blog posts.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to keep your home address secret when you’ve received death threats. Especially when it’s coming from prominent people like Sarah Palin.

        The facts simply do not back up the position you’ve taken.

        If you are publically accused of a crime, your suggesting that defending yourself is a sign of guilt. You are suggesting that doing it competently makes you all the more guilty.

    • B says:

      He stayed in the country but refused all the prosecutor’s orders to come and give a statement, moving around a lot and postings statements to the papers instead of calling the police or the prosecution. I remember Ms Ny making some pointed statements on such when the news called her to ask about it all. She has also stated that he never asked the prosecution for any permission to leave. Indeed the police was probably about to go and get him to come in by force right when he decided to leave.

      The so called CIA connections are what you’d find for any active politician. Namely some kind of three degrees of separation. At a trip on human rights work to Cuba Miss A once worked with a group of mothers of political prisoners who apparently also worked with someone who had ties to the CIA. Pretty far-fetched, especially as she is a socialist politician and has been an advocate for internet freedom of information etc. for years. Which btw was why she had arranged for Assange to come and speak and hold seminars and attend parties where he could mingle with likeminded Swedish political activists. I’m not surprised that she might have balked at cancelling her own political event regardless of if she’d been raped or not.

      According to a legal student here in Sweden the country issues thousands of these notices to Interpol every year so I don’t know how drastic a measure this was.

      All in all, Assange isn’t Wikileaks and he should let justice have it’s course. Since it is very difficult to get a rape conviction in any country, including Sweden, he’d probably be free now if he’d only cooperated from the start.

  21. Loki Carbis says:

    Hear hear, well spoken Bruce.

  22. Jen Surname says:

    It’s very easy, isn’t it, to get caught up in the whole whirlwind surrounding this. Especially when “cynical” is your middle name.

    It becomes almost too easy to link two distinct issues and start jumping up and down. I admit to being directed down that path by my cynicism and I thank you for so deftly steering me away again, with a well thought out and researched rational response.

  23. [...] against Julian Assange Feministe: Some thoughts on “sex by surprise” The Conscience Vote: The arrest of Julian Assange – a reality check [...]

  24. Rhiannon Saxon says:

    Very interesting and clarifying, Marian, keep up the good (IMPORTANT!) work!

    “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’.

  25. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marian Dalton, Citizen Cam and Marion Kruger, Jayne Kearney. Jayne Kearney said: RT @crazyjane13: The Conscience Vote: The arrest of Julian Assange – a reality check. http://wp.me/pZfPj-6n #wikileaks [...]

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