Former BBC legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg asks in today’s Guardian, How did the UN get it so wrong on Julian Assange? He sets out, correctly IMO, the weakness of the Working Group’s opinion that Assange is being subjected to arbitrary detention:
It assumed Assange had been “detained in the embassy of Ecuador by the authorities of the United Kingdom” … In fact, the Wikileaks founder had fled bail in June 2012 and used the embassy “as a safe haven to evade arrest”. Fugitives often do that … But premises of self-confinement cannot be considered places of detention …
Hard to arue with that. But Rozenberg ignores a wider and murkier context. Needless to say the comments section below his piece was all abuzz: barrack room lawyers and ‘common-sensers’ versus sceptics of the capacity of the US, UK and Swedish Governments to act in good faith.
I totally agree with Rozenberg. It is a fundamentally flawed decision.
Sweden and the United Kingdom have in the past acted on behalf of Uncle Sam in kidnapping individuals and shipping them off to black sites where they were tortured. Both countries were eventually forced by the EU to pay reparations to the victims.
There was and is still currently a secret investigation by the US government on Assange and Wikileaks .. it would be absurd .. to trust the UK or Swedish government [on this].
Ecuador has consistently invited Swedish prosecutors to question Assange, who has agreed to return to face the charges if the Swedish government can provide a guarantee he will not be kidnapped (“renditioned”) or handed over to the US on bogus charges. The Swedish government has consistently refused to do both.
To this, truebluetah asked:
then why did Assange trust the British government for so long during his appeals? At any point during that time he could have been arrested and extradited to the US.
This brought zerohoursuni in:
I’d say that was a relatively safe period for Assange. He was unlikely to be extradited at that point. The real danger, methinks, would come after either acquittal in Sweden, or completion of a prison sentence after being found guilty.
(Truth be told zerohoursuni, usually scrupuluous in framing arguments, jumps the gun here. For Assange to be acquitted or found guilty he must first be charged. He hasn’t been.)
Why? If the US wanted to extradite him and the UK government is complicit, why not just arrest him whilst he was within easy reach and then extradite him from the UK?
Because at that point Assange was at his most visible, therefore relatively safe.
In similar vein, zerohoursuni pointed out to Edgeley that:
In the aftermath of Wikileaks, and … UK complicity in extraordinary rendition, extraditing Assange would have been politically embarrassing for the British Government. Denting his popularity with rape allegations – no charge has yet been made of course – would be useful, as would having Sweden do the transfer instead. I don’t say the rape thing is made up. I just don’t know. All the same, cui bono? is always a useful question.
Shortly before the Guardian closed the discussion, thewoodsman2000 offered that:
He has sexual assault charges to answer. The longer he avoids it, the more difficult it will be for his alleged victim to attain justice.
Apart from the ‘charges’ misapprehension, seemingly widespread, we agree. So, Theresa May. So, Swedish Government. Stop obstructing justice and give Assange and his alleged victims their day in court, or at least an impartial assessment of whether prosecution is warranted. Offer the man (and the world) a guarantee he will not be extradited to the USA for offences against the American Empire. Then we can all move on.
14:59 update. Around the time discussion on Rozenberg’s piece closed for comment, this piece by David Crouch appeared on the Guardian website. Here’s its opening paragraph:
A US government jet was lying in wait in Copenhagen to extradite the whistleblower Edward Snowden if he had come to Scandinavia after fleeing to Moscow in June 2013, the Danish government has revealed.
Well, waddayaknow? Other than that, as Scandi-noir fans can attest, Copenhagen to Sweden’s a Bridge too near …
Finally, do read John Pilger’s CounterPunch piece, also today. He takes a wider view of things than does Mr Rozenberg, but that doesn’t make him vague on the rape issue itself:
The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden — where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape”, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything” — and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it
Do also read Jonathan Cook’s piece, in yesterday’s CounterPunch and focusing on liberal media coverage of the case, Guardian in particular.
Could Assange be both a hero to whom we are immensely indebted for his Wikileaks work and a rapist? Of course. But let’s not blame Assange for the confusion surrounding the two issues. The UK and Swedish governments could have chosen at any time since 2012 to make a very clear separation, and have refused repeatedly to do so. You don’t suppose there’s a third party by any chance, more powerful than either, arm-twisting behind the scenes?
No? Well that’s a weight off my mind.