LALIT deplores the UK Government’s threat to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy any time from today onwards, in order to kidnap WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who is there awaiting a decision on refugee status in Ecuador. This threat is not vague, but was issued to the Ecuador Government in writing. The Ecuador Government replied, saying that it is not a “British colony”, and that it is announcing its decision about granting political exile to Julian Assange later today, Thursday. However, Reuters reports that the U.S. is threatening to suspend Ecuador’s trade benefits under an arrangement similar to AGOA for Andean States that dates back to the 1990s. Julian Assange is seeking refugee status in Ecuador because the USA has prepared full “espionage” charges against him, and he is wanted in Sweden on rather dubious charges of rape (See end of article for details on these charges.)
LALIT gives full support to the WikiLeaks brave initiative of truthfully making public secret US Government cables. Publication has allowed people world-wide to get a better understanding of the USA’s criminal intentions in its foreign policy. For example, the Mauritian Government’s case against the British Government leans on WikiLeaks Cables, as does the Chagossian case. We note that WikiLeaks has acted responsibly and with circumspection in publishing only material that is in the public interest, and it was only when arranging to publish in UK’s The Guardian that a misunderstanding occurred and a lot of documents were released by error before the names of people who might suffer prejudice were blacked out. David Leigh of the Guardian later admitted to having made the mistake, himself.
In general, we in LALIT are in favour of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press to publish, and in particular to publish what is in the public interest. War-mongering, and using duress in foreign policy, should not be hidden behind rules of “secrecy” and “confidentiality”.
LALIT fears that the British Government intends to hand Julian Assange, Australian citizen, over to the USA authorities, who intend to make him pay the price for the leaking of the documents that have so thoroughly discredited the USA administration. The USA has become an increasingly repressive State, and Julian Assange has reason to fear for his life. The British threat in writing to the elected Ecuador Government gives a further element of proof that the charges of rape laid against Julian Assange are part of a conspiracy against WikiLeaks.
We call on the Mauritian Government to oppose the British Government’s threat to storm the Ecuador Embassy.
Rape Charges in Sweden
The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 October, 2011 ran an article with the history of the hunting down of Julian Assange, including the following summary of the rape charges, which gives an idea of their dubiousness:
“More serious for Assange was the looming prospect of a return to Sweden. Though the English-speaking world had lost interest in the details of the accusations against him, furious debate had continued in the country where Assange would be questioned and possibly charged. Much of this was due to the argument Assange’s legal team had mounted against extradition - that Sweden’s politically appointed judges, in-camera sex crime trials and freewheeling prosecutors were at variance with EU standards, and neither process nor eventual trial was fair.
“That line of argument hasn’t gone down well in Sweden, where many people are getting tetchy about the country’s reputation as an authoritarian madhouse.
“Yet by mid-year, the case was increasingly in question. Anna Ardin, one of the complainants, had added an accusation of physical sexual coercion, though she had earlier told a newspaper that Assange was ‘not violent’. Tweets indicating a continued relationship with Assange vanished from the record, and were retrieved by bloggers; a leaked police file had a witness recalling one complainant saying she had been railroaded into making an accusation by the police and others.
“When the leaked police report went into wider circulation, it did not take long for people to notice that the name of the initial investigating officer, Irmeli Krans, was familiar from somewhere else. In fact she was one of the links listed on the blogroll of Anna Ardin, the first complainant and organiser of Assange’s visit to Sweden in August last year. That was unusual, though of itself not impossible - Stockholm is, in many ways, a small town. But the links rapidly proved beyond coincidence, many of them unearthed by Sweden’s libertarian Flashback mega-blog.
“Krans and Ardin were not merely connected online, they were both members of the Social Democratic Party and had run together as candidates for the city council elections some months before. Connected through gay and lesbian networks in the party, Krans had visited Club Febber, the fetish nightclub that Ardin set up on Gotland, a residential island off the Swedish coast.
“Ardin had also commented on Krans’s blog a year earlier, on a post about racism and sexism, criticising ‘women who claim they’re not oppressed and therefore think it’s OK to trash feminists’. Responding to the post, Krans noted: ‘Usually I only get negative posts on this blog … but this post puts its finger on the matter, and speaks for itself.’
“ ‘Thanks for the props,’ Ardin replied. ‘The cultural elite often think it is OK to be a little racist and sexist.’
“Were such connections sufficient for Krans to recuse herself from the case? There is no record that she raised the matter. Instead, immediately after Ardin and the other complainant, Sofia Wilen, walked into a central Stockholm police station on August 20 last year, Krans conducted an interview with Wilen. Contrary to police guidelines, the interview was neither taped nor transcribed. A half-hour into the interview, police had already consulted the prosecutor's office, and a rape investigation was opened.
“Krans was almost immediately removed from the case, but a leaked email reveals she subsequently queried whether rape charges had been laid. Two days later she attempted to access the interview file on the police computer but was refused access. A leaked email exchange between Krans and her superior indicates that she was attempting to revise the summary of Wilen's statement, because she had taken it down incompletely at the time.
“By the most generous assessment, the initial handling of the case was a mess. An internal police inquiry would later find that Krans’s conduct had not affected the case - even though Krans, a potential witness in any future trial, had subsequently broadcast an extraordinary stream of anti-Assange commentary on her Facebook page and over Twitter, complaining that the official accusation of ‘minor rape’ was insufficient, and cheering on Claes Borgstrom, the complainants’ lawyer.
“Her Facebook account shows Harald Ullman, a member of the Stockholm police board, logged on to express his disbelief at her conduct. Krans's involvement in the interview with Wilen has certainly complicated its status as evidence - all the more so, since Wilen never verified it as a true record with her signature.
“Yet there were also problems with the allegations against Assange by Anna Ardin herself. During her interview, conducted by phone - also against police guidelines on sex crime cases - the day after Wilen’s interview, Ardin had given an account of her encounter with Assange, from which two misdemeanour ‘annoyance’ charges were made. That day, the senior prosecutor quashed the rape investigation commenced the day before during Wilen’s interview.
“Two days later, Claes Borgstrom had become both women’s lawyer, and appealed the decision not to prosecute. Two days after that, on August 25, Ardin handed over to police a condom that she claimed had been the one used during her encounter with Assange 10 days earlier. As with everything in this case, the forensic report on this item eventually leaked. For a condom allegedly used in a sex act, it had little to give up, the lab report telling the investigation that no DNA had been recovered from it in an initial series of tests, though they did not rule out the possibility that some might be found. The police had also requested one other test, to see if the rip at the top of the condom was a tear or a blade cut.
“The delay in securing a potentially vital piece of evidence remained unexplained, as did the process by which Ardin's accusation changed from a misdemeanour crime of annoyance to a felony, sexual coercion. The question as to why Ardin would have kept a torn condom for a week when she had no initial intention of going to the police also remained unanswered.
“The repeated attacks on Swedish life and propriety by Assange’s legal team have made it unlikely he would get a sympathetic hearing in that country.”