Assange – justice is long overdue

5 Feb

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.

RogerACA:

I totally agree with Rozenberg. It is a fundamentally flawed decision.

adognow replied:

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.)

trueblutah:

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?

zerohoursun:

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.

3 Replies to “Assange – justice is long overdue

  1. “You don’t suppose there’s a third party by any chance, more powerful than either, arm-twisting behind the scenes?”
    No one has said that Assange is a rapist. Neither the two women concerned, nor the Swedish police, nor Prosecution Service. Any ‘guarantee’ from the Swedish government that he would not be extradited to the US would be utterly worthless. The US authorities priority is to first get their man behind bars in the US, then come up with a suitable offense to keep him there for life.

  2. An odd bit of history that I haven’t seen mentioned in this context is that Sweden has a very long legacy indeed of buckling to a superpower’s pressure and extraditing people to be killed where they went: The reason for the largest expat community of Estonians residing in Canada today is that those who were allied, or fought with the resistance against Soviet occupation at the end of WWII initially fled to Sweden assuming they’d be safe until their leader was sent to Siberia and executed. So they all went from Sweden further on to Canada. Sordid, glaring demographic testimony of a nation’s spineless tradition.Twists and ironies abound here, as with the opposing superpower now calling the shots. Not to mention the fact that the resistance in question was allied with Nazi Germany, nor that Estonia is now a frontier country in a New Cold War with switched sides, firmly entrenched with NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Assange surely is an irritating, controversial character. Not an easy guy to like. But history supports his case for being very concerned with the danger of getting sent further by the Swedish authorities, on to a higher master with a very different agenda from that stipulated by the Swedes as a reason for wanting him.

    • “history supports his case for being very concerned with the danger of getting sent further by the Swedish authorities, on to a higher master with a very different agenda from that stipulated by the Swedes as a reason for wanting him”

      It does indeed. It’s alarming and dismaying the extent to which even many on the left – including people fairly critical on the home front – swallow utter tripe when, on the international front, someone is being vilified. One of the first questions should always be cui bono? That should be followed by, what’s the nature of the evidence and how reliable are the sources?

      Thanks for the info on the Estonians. I’ve heard of other instances of a supine Stockholme but not this one.

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