2012-04-20 Common Misconceptions of the Assange Case

Julian Assange has now been detained for 500 days without charge. This includes the 10 days he spent in solitary confinement on top of the 490 days he's spent electronically tagged under house arrest. After all this time the media is still spreading the same falsities about his case and people continue to attack him with the same misconceptions as they were a year and a half ago.

The facts of the Assange case must be made clear. These false claims have irrevocably damaged Mr. Assange's reputation and have led to a hostile media climate which harms WikiLeaks as an organization. These smears must continue to be challenged until accurate reporting is widespread.

Misconception #1: Julian Assange has been charged with a crime.

Since the allegations arose, press organizations around the world have been claiming Julian Assange has been charged with a crime. In fact, it is so widespread that Mr. Assange submitted a report to the Leveson Inquiry detailing his challenges with the Press Complaints Commission on trying to remedy this common falsity. But even after the submission, many media organizations still cannot seem to grasp this simple fact.

Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime in any country. Sweden is attempting to extradite him for the purpose of questioning related to sexual misconduct allegations. There are no charges and there have never been charges.

Misconception #2: Julian Assange is accused of rape.

On 20 August 2010, the initial prosecutor on the case unlawfully told Swedish tabloid Expressen that Julian Assange was wanted for rape, before even he was aware of the allegations. Within hours, a Google search for "Assange+rape" returned millions of results.

There are four allegations against Mr. Assange, the fourth which carries the Swedish title "mindre grov våldtäkt," translated to "minor rape." This is a concept which is not present in most legal systems. Originally the allegation was "ordinary rape," which carries a higher jail sentence, but this was downgraded to "minor rape" in November 2010.

The allegation is that, after complainant SW and Mr. Assange had consensual sexual intercourse several times through the night and early morning, Mr. Assange again initiated intercourse with SW while she was either "drowsy" or "asleep" ("drowsy" ("halvsov") according to text messages from SW, "asleep" according to the police report). SW expressed concern about continuing without a condom, but agreed to continue without one.

It should also be noted that SW's interview is not even approved by her, as she was upset after hearing Mr. Assange was being sought by the police and would not sign off on the document.

Misconception #3: Julian Assange fled Sweden to escape questioning.

A widely believed misconception is that Julian Assange left Sweden to escape questioning about the allegations of sexual misconduct. Even Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon believed this claim, recently reiterating it on national television, before being corrected by human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Julian Assange stayed in Sweden for about 5 weeks to answer the allegations. Attempts to arrange interview were made through his lawyer Björn Hurtig, but all proposed dates were refused. When Mr. Assange left Sweden, he did so only after receiving approval from the Swedish prosecutor on the case, Marianne Ny.

Mr. Assange has offered himself to be questioned via telephone or video link from London, which are perfectly legal methods under Swedish law, despite Prosecutor Ny falsely stating otherwise. All offers by Mr. Assange have been rejected.

Misconception #4: If Julian Assange is innocent, why doesn't he go to Sweden?

This is the most common question used to attack Julian Assange, yet it fails on so many levels.

If Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden he will be immediately placed in prison, in solitary confinement, and incommunicado. There is no bail system in Sweden, nor is there a time limit to detention, so Mr. Assange would likely spend up to a year in prison . And again, this is without having being charged of any crime.

If he is eventually charged, the trial will be held in secret. Sweden's legal system also features a panel of lay judges who hold no formal legal training and are appointed because of their political affiliation.

Mr. Assange then faces further extradition to the United States, where politicians have openly called for his assassination. Sweden holds a "temporary surrender" agreement with the U.S. which allows extradition without the usual lengthy procedure.

Furthermore, there is a basic human rights element to this issue. If the UK allows the extradition of Julian Assange to Sweden it means that anyone can be extradited between EU countries without charge and without evidence. By challenging his extradition to Sweden, he is challenging the EAW system as a whole, something which has faced criticism since it came into force in 2004.

Justice for Assange - http://justice4assange.com/
Jennifer Robinson's brief to Canberra MPs - http://wlcentral.org/node/1418

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