2010-12-27 Notes on the persecution of Julian Assange

There is no doubt that Wikileaks is under continuous attack: threats from the Pentagon; calls by the old Republican right and the recently empowered Tea Party for a direct attack on what they have called a “terrorist threat”; the renowned boycotts by Paypal, Moneybookers, Amazon and now even Apple; the Australian government’s reticence to defend its citizen (Julian Assange); the rejection of Mr. Assange’s residence in Sweden for unexplained causes, and the list grows.

Now even though many voices have hinted, or even openly declared, that the rape charges against him are just another part of this campaign, because of its sensitive nature it is wiser not to hurry in our conclusions. What is clear though is that the constant irregularities at the heart of the case can make it questionable, which is why many of those voices are worried about the real motivation behind the accusations. Last August, in the middle of the political storm unleashed by the leak in July related to the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Assange was casually dating the liberal politologist and Swedish activist, Anna Ardin. According to her version of the story, he would have forced her sexually on the night of the 14th of that month, pressing charges around a week later.

It must be made clear that it is perfectly possible that Mr. Assange committed rape; that we must not judge him with a different ethos because of his actions with Wikileaks and the esteem he carries. However, Anna Ardin’s lack of care allows us to see what is perhaps the true nature of the facts, as in the days following the alleged rape, she posted two comments on her microblogging accounts, Twitter and Bloggy, in which she not only does not complain of any sort of harassment, but seems to be thrilled with his company. When alerted and accused by the Swedish journalist Göran Rudling, Ardin erased both posts from her account. Is this the attitude of a supposed rape victim, deleting objective and very relevant information about the case? Evidently, her actions speak by themselves. The good thing, as we have mentioned before on this blog, is that everything you do on the Internet leaves a trace, and effectively, Google recorded her comments in their image caches; Mr. Rudling found them and spread them on the net, making them impossible to be silenced (however, another obscure fact, that invites speculation, is that these caches were eliminated by Google from their servers, something that normally happens in years or never). In the case of the other victim, Sofia Wilen, related with Ardin only through Mr. Assange, we now know on behalf of the Swedish prosecutors that comments with the same contradictory nature were made by her through SMS on her mobile phone. There are a number of theories that attempt to explain these discrepancies: Ardin acts in a jealous tantrum when she discovers that Assange does not want a serious relationship and that he is simultaneously seeing Sofia Wilen (theory justified by her radical feminism, especially in articles such as this one and based on this other one, in which she elucidates methods on how to get ‘legal revenge’ on cheating boyfriends); Ardin has contacts with the CIA, acquired through her odd anti-Castrist activism and her participation in the Damas de Blanco organization, where she met Luis Posada Carriles and Carlos Alberto Montaner, supposedly old CIA collaborators. This last one, as with all conspiracy theories, is hard to prove with certainty even though the doubts are obvious and remain.

The months following the arrest warrant are chaotic: Mr. Assange leaves Sweden several times; meanwhile the senior Swedish prosecutor, Eva Finne closes the case because of lack of evidence and Claes Borgstrom, a right-wing politician and lawyer to the two women, manages to reopen it in another district; reacting, Mr. Assange’s legal team offers its clients disposition to preliminary questioning: they receive no answer; he then asks permission to leave to England and it is conceded, he leaves and the media calls it absconding and fleeing; again he shows his disposition to questioning and again it is unanswered, Interpol enters the scene and an international ‘manhunt’ starts, magnified by the press; he gives himself in voluntarily and is jailed in solitary confinement without bail, he is kept there the for the maximum amount of time and has to pay a huge amount as bail; on the 16th of December he is freed but must remain in house arrest, with a tracking device attached to his body, waiting to be extradited.

On the afternoon he has freed he gave an interview to the BBC, in which he explained the court procedures from the inside and shed light on the harassment of his liberties: “We did not hear any evidence whatsoever; in fact, we heard an argument that has been repeated now over this court hearing and the prior too: that no evidence whatsoever needed to be produced and in fact none has been produced […] the preliminary actions in Sweden were done in secret, there was an application in Sweden to have me held incommunicado, there is a statement by the prosecutor that my lawyer is to be gagged.” Is this the normal behavior in an average rape trial? Again, the facts speak for themselves. It is clearly, as Mr. Assange has said, a smear campaign, designed by Wikileaks’ political enemies to misinform the general public, through the media they control and through the Internet. He stated that, “my name, if you search on the Internet, appears in some five million web pages, four million of those also mention de word rape. There are thirty three million web pages altogether on the Internet that mention the word rape in any context, which means I am mentioned in over 1/10th of all the contexts of all the rapes ever documented on the Internet. This has been a very successful smear campaign”. It seems that they are holding him only to make his name appear next to ‘rape’ and far away from freedom of speech, transparency and truth; however, as of now, we can only wonder. It is another chapter in the war of information, with frightening conclusions like “some disturbing aspects of Europe, for example, that any person in any European country can be extradited to any other European country without the provision of any evidence”.

To counter this initiative we must ask ourselves, as global and compromised citizens, some frank questions: As Mr. Assange correctly points out, what is happening with human rights and freedom in Europe? How should we react if he is finally extradited and put on trial according to the Espionage act of 1917 , which could have him jailed or even see him executed? And more importantly, why is everybody talking so much about him instead of questioning the obvious war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why not concentrate on the lies that covered up the deaths of many innocent civilians? And finally, what can be done, as a global civil society, to bring the people responsible to justice?

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