Governments, Retribution and Julian Assange.
A reader of mine has suggested that I am trivialising the rape charges against Julian Assange. So I wanted to deal with this issue head-on.
I am not trivialising those charges, rather I am aware of how governments and secret services act, and unless we see these unfolding events in a wider context then I am afraid we will get lost.
Firstly, we need to remember that governments have for many centuries used indirect means to get at their enemies.
Secondly, Assange has seriously annoyed some very powerful people and it is highly likely that they would want some form of revenge.
Thirdly, within living memory governments have done far worse, such as overthrowing elected democracies, causing panic and shortages, manipulating whole countries.
Fifthly, these allegations against Julian Assange only really came to light after Wikileaks had released some 75,000+ documents concerning US activities in and around Iraq last year.
So when considering this issue we need to bear those points in mind.
As commentators have remarked how Julian Assange was, until today, beyond the grasp of those he annoyed, primarily the current US administration:
“Besides, even if current law were sufficient, how would authorities bring Assange, an Australian native in hiding outside the U.S., into this country to stand trial?
Presented with this question, Holder told reporters that no one’s foreign citizenship or residence would prevent them from being targeted. But that brings us back to this question: on what charge could he be indicted?”
That again “… that no one’s foreign citizenship or residence would prevent them from being targeted.…”
Which suggest to me on the balance of probability that the US administration had for many months been looking at a way of “acquiring” Julian Assange.
I have no doubt that soon after Assange’s time in Sweden that he will be deported to the United States.
Once more, if governments and security services are perfectly capable of overthrowing elected governments in Latin America and across the world then organising for some form of charges to be the pretext for getting Julian Assange into custody seems like child’s play to them.
Update 1: This is from the Guardian 2010, August:
“Swedish authorities have withdrawn an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, stating that the accusation of rape against him was unfounded.
The move came just a day after a warrant was issued by Sweden’s prosecutors’ office in Stockholm in response to accusations of rape and molestation in two separate cases.
“I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” the chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, said.
She made no comment on the status of the molestation case, a less serious charge that would not lead to an arrest warrant.
Assange has denied both accusations, first reported by the Swedish tabloid Expressen, which were described as dirty tricks on the Wikileaks’ Twitter account.
He implied that they were linked to the release by the whistleblowers’ website of a huge cache of US military records on the Afghan war, which were published in collaboration with the Guardian and two other newspapers.
Assange wrote: “The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.”
Earlier postings on the Twitter account implied the accusations were part of a dirty tricks campaign against the Wikileaks founder, who has been strongly criticised by the Pentagon.
“Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say, this will prove hugely distracting.
“We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks’. Now we have the first one.”
Last month Wikileaks released around 77,000 secret US military documents on the war in Afghanistan.”
Update 2: Elsewhere there is a very concious effort to close down Wikileaks’ funding as Visa and Mastercard stop donations, Forbes reports:
“The mounting legal and political forces working against WikiLeaks just scored two major financial blows against the whistleblower site. On Tuesday morning, Visa suspended payments to WikiLeaks, according to the Associated Press. And late Monday, Mastercard told Cnet that it would also attempt to block payments to WikiLeaks, arguing that its “rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”
Visa and Mastercards’ moves represent the latest and most serious tightening of the financial vice around WikiLeaks since it released the first portion of a quarter million diplomatic cables last week. On Friday, PayPal blocked payments to the site, and the Swiss bank PostFinance announced Monday that it was freezing Assange’s accounts.
Both PayPal and PostFinance have faced anger as a result of their decisions and even cyberattacks: A group that calls itself Operation: Payback has taken credit for floods of junk web traffic that have temporarily taken down both the Swiss bank’s website and PayPal’s blog. Expect those attacks to now target Visa and Mastercard, too.”
Update 3: There’s a report on AOL News that “sex by surprise” was the issue, I am not sure what to make of it:
“The international manhunt for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a sex-crime investigation in Sweden apparently stems from a condom malfunction.
Assange’s London attorney, Mark Stephens, told AOL News today that Swedish prosecutors told him that Assange is wanted not for allegations of rape, as previously reported, but for something called “sex by surprise,” which he said involves a fine of 5,000 kronor or about $715.
“Whatever ‘sex by surprise’ is, it’s only a offense in Sweden — not in the U.K. or the U.S. or even Ibiza,” Stephens said. “I feel as if I’m in a surreal Swedish movie being threatened by bizarre trolls. The prosecutor has not asked to see Julian, never asked to interview him, and he hasn’t been charged with anything. He’s been told he’s wanted for questioning, but he doesn’t know the nature of the allegations against him.”
The strange tale of Assange’s brief flings with two Swedish women during a three-day period in mid-August — and decisions by three different prosecutors to first dismiss rape allegations made by the women and then re-open the case — has more twists, turns and conspiracy theories than any of Stieg Larsson’s best-sellers.
True, one of Assange’s accusers sounds tailor-made for those who think Assange is being set up in Sweden by dark CIA-backed operatives who want him smeared or silenced for his document dumping with WikiLeaks. She’s a 31-year-old blond academic and member of the Social Democratic Party who’s known for her radical feminist views, once wrote a treatise on how to take revenge against men and was once thrown out of Cuba for subversive activities.
But others say Assange, who denies any wrongdoing and says the sex was consensual, may have just run afoul of Sweden’s unusual rape laws, which are considered pro-feminist because of the consideration given issues of consent when it comes to sexual activity — including even the issue of whether a condom was used.
In fact, the current prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who re-opened the case against Assange, has been active in the proposed reforms of Swedish rape laws that would, if passed, involve an investigation of whether an imbalance in power between two people could void one person’s insistence that the sex was consensual.
Swedish tabloids and the country’s blogosphere have been rife since August with stories and speculation about Assange’s accusers, the flip-flopping prosecutors and just what, if any, crime was committed by Assange during sex with the two women.
“He’s innocent, that I can tell you,” Bjorn Hurtig, Assange’s Stockholm-based lawyer, told AOL News today. Hurtig later issued a statement saying the international arrest warrant for Assange is based on “exaggerated grounds.”
Assange arrived in Sweden on Aug. 11 to speak at a weekend seminar sponsored by the Social Democratic Party and arranged to stay at a Stockholm apartment belonging to the event organizer, a member of the branch of the party who would become one of Assange’s two accusers.
According to a police report obtained by the Daily Mail in August, she and Assange had sex, and at some point the condom broke. While she was apparently not happy about the condom breaking, the two were seen the next day at the seminar, and nothing appeared amiss.
Another woman at the seminar, a 27-year-old art photographer, said in her police statement that she’d come to hear Assange’s lecture because of her fascination with him and his work. She can be seen in video footage on the Internet sitting in the front row during Assange’s lecture, wearing a pink sweater and snapping pictures of him.
According to the police report, the woman managed to get an invitation to go out for lunch with Assange and his entourage after the seminar. They spent time together before he went back to stay at the event organizer’s apartment.
Two days later, on Aug. 16, they reconnected by phone and the woman invited him to her apartment, more than 40 miles outside Stockholm. She paid for the ticket since Assange apparently had no cash and doesn’t like to use credit cards because they could be traced.
She complained in her police statement that during the train ride to her hometown, “he paid more attention to his computer rather than me.” She also said that by the time they arrived at her apartment, “the passion and excitement seemed to have disappeared.”
The woman and Assange also reportedly had sex. According to the Daily Mail account, Assange did not use a condom at least one time during their sexual activity. The New York Times today quoted accounts given by the women to police and friends as saying Assange “did not comply with her appeals to stop when (the condom) was no longer in use.”
According to the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, the photographer contacted the other woman two days after her assignation with Assange, and the two apparently had a conversation in which it became clear they had both had sex with Assange. The photographer was worried about having had unprotected sex and decided she wanted to go to the police.
The other woman accompanied her to the police station on Aug. 20 just to support her but then told the investigating officer on duty that she, too, had had sex with Assange, Aftonbladet reported.
Based on what was said to police, the on-call prosecutor, Marie Kjellstrand, decided to issue an arrest warrant on charges of rape and molestation, and the next day the story hit the Swedish paper Expressen and newspapers all over the world.
Kjellstrand’s decision was overruled the following day by a higher-level prosecutor, Eva Finne, who withdrew the arrest warrant and said she did not see any evidence for rape allegations.
Then, on Sept. 1, a third prosecutor, Ny, re-opened the rape investigation, implying that she had new information in the case. “
Update 4: This is a useful brief from some legal minds:
“According to Afua Hirsch at The Guardian, Assange will argue, amongst other things, that he would be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden and therefore should be protected under human rights law.
Human rights law is often (some say increasingly) invoked, although rarely successfully, in extradition proceedings. If a person can show that there is a real risk of his rights – such as to a fair trial or against inhuman and degrading treatment – being breached in the receiving state, then a UK court will not extradite him as that would amount to a UK public authority – the court – causing the breach, which is unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
For example, the High Court recently questioned whether the Russian criminal justice system was too corrupt to ensure a fair trial for a man faced with extradition (see my post). The court was asked to decide whether the lack of accountability of prosecutors in Russia would lead to a “flagrant denial of justice” if a man were extradited. The extradition request ultimately failed for other reasons, but the judge expressed significant concerns in relation to the Russian justice system.
But Sweden is not Russia. Assange may argue that since the charges are politically motivated, he will not receive a fair trial. But without solid proof of such serious allegations, he will not succeed. European Arrest Warrants are designed to make extradition between states simple and quick, and it will be difficult even in such a high-profile case to prevent this happening.
He may also invoke the right to freedom of expression. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that everyone has a right to freedom of expression, but a state can restrict that right, amongst other reasons, in the interests of national security and the prevention of crime. If Assange was facing extradition to the United States, which may follow soon, this argument would be at front and centre.
But as things stand, unless he can show that the sexual assault allegations are politically motivated, which seems unlikely, it is hard to see how freedom of expression will play much of a part. The Wikileaks site is still running despite his arrest, and freedom of expression rights can legitimately be breached to prevent crime.”