Assange should face the music

Julian Assange.Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is not well served by some of his supporters.
Nanjing Night Net

When he appeared on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up for the past two months to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual assault, he wisely said nothing about those claims – but some of his friends did.

George Galloway, the British member of parliament who founded the Respect Party, shares Mr Assange’s suspicion that the whole affair was a “set-up” to get him to Sweden, from which he would be extradited to the United States to face trial for “espionage” for placing a quarter-million US diplomatic cables on the internet.

That was what Mr Assange talked about on the balcony last Sunday – but Mr Galloway could not resist the opportunity to talk about sex.

Mr Galloway never misses a chance to put himself in the public eye, so he released a podcast on Monday saying that Mr Assange was only guilty of “bad sexual etiquette”. Thanks, George. The last thing Mr Assange needed was for public attention to be distracted from his claim that the US was plotting to seize and jail him, and diverted instead to the details of the alleged sexual assaults.

Some of those details are indeed peculiar. Each of the two Swedish women said she had consensual sex with Mr Assange, but was asleep or “half-asleep” when he initiated sex again.

The real issue in both cases was apparently his failure to use a condom on the second occasion, but neither woman claimed rape. Indeed, one of them threw a party in Mr Assange’s honour the following evening, and asked him to stay in her room again afterwards.

Worried about the condom issue, they subsequently asked him to take an STD test, and went to the police when he refused. The Swedish police issued an arrest warrant for him on August 20, 2010, but one of Stockholm’s chief prosecutors, Eva Finne, cancelled it the following day, saying: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.”

Ten days passed before her decision was overturned by another chief prosecutor, who issued a European arrest warrant for Mr Assange (who was in London by then) demanding that he be sent to Sweden for questioning. The British police arrested him in February, 2011, and he spent the next 16 months on bail, fighting extradition. When his last appeal was denied in June, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy.

But why doesn’t he just answer the Swedish police’s questions? They haven’t even charged him with anything at this point. His answer is that he’d be happy to talk to them in London, but that if he goes to Sweden the United States will lay charges against him (it hasn’t done so yet) and demand his extradition. Even if he is never charged with rape or some lesser offence by Sweden, he would then face decades in an American jail.

So is there really an American plot to whisk Mr Assange away and lock him up for good?

The remarkable absence of a US indictment and a subsequent demand for extradition after all this time suggests Washington knows there would be no point. So there probably isn’t a US plot to grab Mr Assange.

There probably wasn’t a rape either, but that’s for the Swedish courts to decide. Mr Assange should just allow them to get on with it.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.