Newspaper Articles

Assange: charges are part of campaign to close down WikiLeaks, he vows to fight extradition

Related articles:

Progressive Pakistani bloggers in support of Julian Assange

Two plus two

WikiLeaks claims the arrest is an attack on media freedom, but it is worth pointing out that one of the claimants making the sexual assault allegations has strongly denied that the charges are trumped up, saying: “The charges against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon.”

News Story highlights:

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was denied bail Tuesday on a rape charge in Sweden as financial and legal pressures mounted over the website’s publishing of secret documents.
  • He has been remanded in custody by a British court over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.
  • WikiLeaks vows to keep releasing cables despite Assange’s arrest.
  • In court to support him were film-maker and journalist John Pilger, socialite Jemima Khan and film director Ken Loach. Each offered $32,000 as surety bound.

  • Mr Assange’s lawyer and the judge insisted the assault case had nothing to do with WikiLeaks and should be judged on its own merits.
  • But the huge media presence underscored the global interest in the case, as did the appearance in court of Pilger, Loach and Jemima Khan.
  • They each offered 20,000 pounds ($32,000) surety for his bail, despite Ms Khan and Loach admitting they did not know him personally.
  • “I know him by reputation,” Loach told the court, adding about WikiLeaks: “I think we are entitled to know the dealings of those who govern us.”
  • Pilger said he knew Mr Assange personally “and I have a very high regard for him”.
  • “I’m here today because the charges (allegations) against him in Sweden are absurd.”
  • He dismissed the Swedish prosecution as a “travesty”.
Julian Assange claims that the charges against him are part of campaign to close down WikiLeaks Source: Supplied

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by London police on behalf of Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape. The Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit confirmed at 10.30am London time (2030 AEDT) that the 39-year-old Australian had been arrested “by appointment” on a European Arrest Warrant an hour earlier. The Swedish warrant cites one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape – all allegedly committed in August this year.

According to the Guardians report WikiLeaks will continue releasing the leaked US embassy cables in spite of the arrest this morning of its founder, Julian Assange, over allegations in Sweden of sexual offences. The whistleblowers’ website has made arrangements to continue publishing the classified documents, the airing of which has embarrassed the US government.

The leaked cables have provided a daily flow of revelations about the superpower’s involvement in the most sensitive issues around the world, including those affecting Iran, Afghanistan and China. The decision to press on will help allay fears among Assange’s supporters that his arrest would hobble the organisation’s work. Assange has also pre-recorded a video message, which WikiLeaks is due to release today. But the Guardian understands the organisation has no plans to release the insurance file of the remaining cables, which number more than 200,000. It has sent copies of the encrypted file to supporters around the world. These can be accessed only by using a 256-digit code.

Assange and his lawyers, Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson, attended a London police station at 9.30am today, by appointment. The 39-year old Australian was arrested under a European arrest warrant. He is wanted by Swedish authorities to face one charge of unlawful coercion, two charges of sexual molestation and one charge of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.

“Officers from the Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape,” said a spokesman for Scotland Yard. “Julian Assange, 39, was arrested on a European arrest warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9.30am.” In the last 24 hours, coverage of the content of the cables has been overtaken by interest in Assange’s apparently unrelated legal tussle with Swedish prosecutors. Assange strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Stephens yesterday said the issue could be summed up as a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex”. The charges have changed several times since they were first levelled by two women on 20 August in relation to events over the weekend of 13 August. Swedish prosecutors initially dismissed the allegations of one of the women but the country’s director of public prosecution, Marianne Ny, reopened the case. On 18 November, Stockholm’s district court approved a request to issue an international and European arrest warrant, which itself was disputed by Assange’s legal team.

Mr Assange’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, says he will fight against extradition.

“I am very, very concerned about the political interference that there appears to have been in this case,” he said.

“There are things that are going on and I think that we’re not seeing the whole picture yet.” But the Swedish prosecutor who brought the sexual misconduct case against Mr Assange said it was a personal matter and not connected with his work releasing secret US diplomatic cables.

“I want to make it clear that I have not been put under any kind of pressure, political or otherwise,” Marianne Ny, a director of prosecution, said in a statement.

“Swedish prosecutors are completely independent in their decision-making. “The criminal investigation has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It concerns him personally. “There are no foreign authorities which have asked to be informed. Only journalists and private people have sought information.” US Republican congressman Pete King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Mr Assange to be extradited to the US. “Sweden is obviously a democracy and they have the right to pursue whatever legal acts they have against Assange,” he said.

“But ultimately, and really sooner rather than later, I think it’s important that he be extradited from whatever country he’s in to the United States because his conduct to me clearly violates the US Espionage Act.

It should also be pointed out of course that Assange strenuously denies the sex assault charges. The New York Times reports on how the US have been going after Assange over the separate issue of the leaked cables.

Justice department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organisation to make it public. The Justice department has considered trying to indict Assange under the Espionage Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute a third-party recipient of a leak. Some lawmakers have suggested accusing WikiLeaks of receiving stolen government property, but experts said Monday that would also pose difficulties.

“Don’t shoot messenger”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended his Internet publishing site on Wednesday, saying it was crucial to spreading democracy and likening himself to global media baron Rupert Murdoch in the quest to publish the truth.

Assange’s op-ed piece in the Australian has been published. The paper says these are the main points:

• WikiLeaks is fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public. • The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth. • (My idea is) to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth. • People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. • The Gillard government (Australia) is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed.

It is worth quoting Assange’s final remarks in full:

The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts: the US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US officials in Jordan and Bahrain want [sic] Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any means available. Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”. Sweden is a covert member of Nato and US intelligence-sharing is kept from parliament. The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantánamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian president only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees. In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US supreme court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Another key paragraph from Assange’s Australian article:

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

About the author

Junaid Qaiser


Click here to post a comment
  • Australian diplomats will support Assange: FM

    SYDNEY — Australian diplomats will support detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd vowed Wednesday, even after Assange accused Canberra of “disgraceful pandering” to his foes.
    Australia’s consul-general to Britain has already spoken to Assange, arrested in London Tuesday on a warrant seeking his extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges, while diplomats attended his court hearing, officials said.
    “We have confirmed that we’ll provide (consular support), as we’d do for all Australian citizens,” Rudd said a day after his boss Prime Minister Julia Gillard branded WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked diplomatic cables “grossly irresponsible.”
    “We’ll be providing him with a letter soon which indicates we’ll be prepared to provide consular visits and any other level of consular support concerning his wellbeing and his legal rights,” Rudd said on commercial television.
    His comments came hours after Assange turned himself in on charges his lawyers have branded politically motivated as his organisation’s snowballing revelations sowed panic and fury in governments across the world.
    In an opinion piece written before his arrest and published in the Australian newspaper on Wednesday, Assange tore into the Australian government for turning on him and backing US claims that his revelations were illegal.
    “Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to (calls by US figures for Assange to be hunted down) by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government,” he wrote.
    “The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters.
    “We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.”
    Rudd vowed to defend Assange’s rights even as confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks painted an unflattering picture of the former prime minister as an impulsive “control freak” who had made diplomatic blunders.

  • Rudd blames US, not Assange for leaks

    Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says the United States, not WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is to blame for the release of secret diplomatic cables.

    Mr Rudd says the 39-year-old Australian cannot be held personally responsible for the release of more than 250,000 documents.

    He says the leaks raise questions about the adequacy of US security.

    “Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network,” said Mr Rudd, who has been criticised in one leaked cable as a “control freak”.

    “The Americans are responsible for that.”

    Mr Rudd appears to be in agreement with former prime minister John Howard, who earlier today said Mr Assange had not done anything wrong by publishing cables that contained “frank commentary”.

    “Any journalist will publish confidential information if he or she gets hold of it, subject only to compelling national security interests,” Mr Howard said.

    “The issue is whether any of this material and the publication of it will endanger people’s lives or endanger individual countries.

    “The bad people in this little exercise are the people who gave the information to him, because they’re the people who breached the trust.

    “They deserve to be chased and prosecuted.”

    Some US politicians are looking for ways to indict Mr Assange over the breach of security.

    Mr Assange is in custody in Britain facing extradition to Sweden in relation to sexual assault allegations, but authorities in both countries insist his detention has nothing to do with the recent release of the secret cables.

    Mr Assange, who denies the allegations, will remain behind bars until an extradition hearing on December 14.

    The original source of the leaks is not known, though a US army private who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Bradley Manning, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorised downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables.

    US officials have declined to say whether those cables are those now being released by WikiLeaks.

  • The Wikileaks sex files: How two one-night stands sparked a worldwide hunt for Julian Assange

    A winter morning in backwoods Scandinavia and the chime of a church bell drifts across the snowbound town of Enkoping. Does it also toll for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

    Today, this small industrial centre, 40 miles west of Stockholm, remains best-known — if known at all — as the birthplace of the ­adjustable spanner.

    But if extradition proceedings involving ­Britain are successful, it could soon be rather more celebrated — by the U.S. government at least — as the place where Mr Assange made a ­catastrophic error.

    Here, in a first-floor flat in a dreary apartment block, the mastermind behind the leak of more than 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables this month slept with a female admirer whom he had just met at a seminar. She subsequently made a complaint to police.

    As a result, Assange, believed to be in hiding in England, faces a criminal prosecution and ­possibly jail. Last night, a European Arrest ­Warrant was given by Interpol to Scotland Yard.

    The Stockholm police want to question him regarding the possible rape of a woman and separate allegations from another Swedish admirer, with whom he was having a concurrent fling. But there remains a huge question mark over the evidence. Many people believe that the 39-year-old ­Australian-born whistleblower is the victim of a U.S. government dirty tricks campaign.

    They argue that the whole squalid affair is a sexfalla, which translates loosely from the Swedish as a ‘honeytrap’.

    One thing is clear, though: Sweden’s complex rape laws are central to the story.

    Using a number of sources including leaked police interviews, we can begin to piece together the sequence of events which led to Assange’s liberty being threatened by Stockholm police rather than Washington, where already one U.S. politician has called on him to executed for ‘spying’.

    The story began on August 11 this year, when Assange arrived in Stockholm.

    He had been invited to be the key speaker at a seminar on ‘war and the role of the media’, ­organised by the centre-Left Brotherhood Movement.

    His point of contact was a female party official, whom we shall refer to as Sarah (her identity must be ­protected because of the ongoing legal proceedings).

    An attractive blonde, Sarah was already a well-known ‘radical feminist’. In her 30s, she had travelled the world following various fashionable causes.

    While a research assistant at a local university she had not only been the protegee of a militant feminist ­academic, but held the post of ‘campus sexual equity officer’. Fighting male discrimination in all forms, including sexual harassment, was her forte.

    Sarah and Assange had never met. But in a series of internet and telephone conversations, they agreed that during his visit he could stay at her small apartment in central Stockholm. She said she would be away from the city until the day of the seminar itself.

    What happened over the next few days — while casting an extraordinary light on the values of the two women involved — suggests that even if the WikiLeaks founder is innocent of any charges, he is certainly a man of strong sexual appetites who is not averse to exploiting his fame.

    Certainly his stay was always going to be a very social affair, mingling with like-minded and undoubtedly admiring people.

    That Thursday, he held court at the Beirut Cafe in Stockholm, dining with fellow ‘open government’ campaigners and an American journalist.

    The following afternoon, Sarah returned to Stockholm, 24 hours earlier than planned.

    In an interview she later gave to police, she is reported to have said: ‘He (Assange) was there when I came home. We talked a little and decided that he could stay.’

    The pair went out for dinner together at a nearby restaurant. Afterwards they returned to her flat and had sex. What is not disputed by either of them is

    that a condom broke — an event which, as we shall see, would later take on great significance.

    At the time, however, the pair ­continued to be friendly enough the next day, a Saturday, with Sarah even throwing a party for him at her home in the evening.

    That same day, Assange attended his seminar at the Swedish trade union HQ. In the front row of the audience, dressed in an eye-catching pink jumper — you can see her on a YouTube ­internet clip recorded at the time — was a pretty twentysomething whom we shall call Jessica. She was the woman — who two sources this week told me is a council employee — from Enkoping.

    Jessica would later tell police that she had first seen Assange on television a few weeks before. She had found him ‘interesting, brave and admirable’. As a result, she began to follow the ­WikiLeaks saga, and when she discovered that he was due to visit Stockholm she ­contacted the Brotherhood Movement to volunteer to help out at the seminar. Although her offer was not taken up, she decided to attend the seminar anyway and took a large number of photos of Assange during his 90-minute talk.

    It is believed that by happenstance Jessica also met Sarah — the woman with whom Assange had spent the night — during the meeting.

    Afterwards, she hung around and was still there when Assange — who has a child from a failed relationship around 20 years ago — left with a group of male friends for lunch.

    Sources conflict here. One says that she asked to tag along; another that Assange invited her to join them.

    Subsequently, one of Assange’s friends recalled that Jessica had been ‘very keen’ to get Assange’s attention.

    She was later to tell police that, at the restaurant, Assange put his arm around her shoulder. ‘I was flattered. It was obvious that he was flirting,’ she reportedly said.

    The attraction was mutual. After lunch, the pair went to the cinema to see a film called Deep Sea. Jessica’s account suggests that were ‘intimate’ and then went to a park where Assange told her she was ‘attractive’.

    But he had to leave to go to a ‘crayfish party’, a traditional, and usually boozy, Swedish summer event.

    Jessica asked if they would meet again. ‘Of course,’ said the WikiLeaks supremo. They parted and she took a train back to Enkoping while he took a cab back to his temporary base at Sarah’s flat, where the crayfish party was to be held. You might think it strange that Sarah would want to throw a party in honour of the man about whom she would later make a complaint to police concerning their liaison the night before.

    This is only one of several puzzling flaws in the prosecution case.

    A few hours after that party, Sarah apparently Tweeted: ‘Sitting outside … nearly freezing, with the world’s coolest people. It’s pretty amazing!’ She was later to try to erase this message.

    During the party, Assange apparently phoned Jessica and a few hours later she was boasting to friends about her flirtation with him. At that point, according to police reports, her friends advised her ‘the ball is in your court’.

    So it was that on the Monday, Jessica called Assange and they arranged to get together in Stockholm. When they did meet they agreed to go to her home in Enkoping, but he had no money for a train ticket and said he didn’t want to use a credit card because he would be ‘tracked’ (presumably, as he saw it, by the CIA or other agencies).

    So Jessica bought both their tickets.

    She had snagged perhaps the world’s most famous activist, and after they arrived at her apartment they had sex. According to her testimony to police, Assange wore a condom. The following morning they made love again. This time he used no protection.

    Jessica reportedly said later that she was upset that he had refused when she asked him to wear a condom.

    Again there is scant evidence — in the public domain at least — of rape, sexual molestation or unlawful coercion.

    What’s more, the following morning, on the Tuesday, the pair amicably went out to have breakfast together and, at her prompting, Assange promised to stay in touch. He then returned to Stockholm, with Jessica again paying for his ticket.

    What happened next is difficult to explain. The most likely interpretation of events is that as a result of a one-night stand, one participant came to regret what had happened.

    Jessica was worried she could have caught a sexual disease, or even be pregnant: and this is where the story takes an intriguing turn. She then decided to phone Sarah — whom she had met at the ­seminar, and with whom Assange had been staying — and apparently confided to her that she’d had unprotected sex with him.

    At that point, Sarah said that she, too, had slept with him.

    As a result of this conversation, Sarah reportedly phoned an acquaintance of Assange and said that she wanted him to leave her apartment. (He refused to do so, and maintains that she only asked him to leave three days later, on the Friday of that week.)

    How must Sarah have felt to ­discover that the man she’d taken to her bed three days before had already taken up with another woman? ­Furious? Jealous? Out for revenge? Perhaps she merely felt aggrieved for a fellow woman in distress.

    Having taken stock of their options for a day or so, on Friday, August 20, Sarah and Jessica took drastic action.

    They went together to a Stockholm police station where they said they were seeking advice on how to proceed with a complaint by Jessica against Assange.

    According to one source, Jessica wanted to know if it was possible to force Assange to undergo an HIV test. Sarah, the seasoned feminist warrior, said she was there merely to support Jessica. But she also gave police an account of what had happened between herself and Assange a week before.

    The female interviewing officer, presumably because of allegations of a sabotaged condom in one case and a refusal to wear one in the ­second, concluded that both women were victims: that ­Jessica had been raped, and Sarah subject to sexual molestation.

    It was Friday evening. A duty prosecuting attorney, Maria ­Kjellstrand, was called.

    She agreed that Assange should be sought on suspicion of rape.

    The following day, Sarah was questioned again, cementing the allegation of sexual misconduct against Assange. That evening, detectives tried to find him and searched Stockholm’s entertainment district — but to no avail.

    By Sunday morning, the news had leaked to the Press.

    Indeed, it has been suggested that the two women had discussed approaching a tabloid newspaper to maximise Assange’s discomfort. By now, the authorities realised they had a high-profile case on their hands and legal papers were rushed to the weekend home of the chief ­prosecutor, who dismissed the rape charge.

    She felt that what had occurred were no more than minor offences.

    But the case was now starting to spin out of control.

    Sarah next spoke to a newspaper, saying: ‘In both cases, the sex had been consensual from the start but had eventually turned into abuse.’

    Rejecting accusations of an international plot to trap Assange, she added: ‘The accusations were not set up by the Pentagon or anybody else. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man with a twisted view of women, who has a problem accepting the word “no”.’

    The two women then instructed Claes Borgstrom, a so-called ‘gender lawyer’ who is a leading supporter of a campaign to extend the legal ­definition of rape to help bring more rapists to justice.

    As a result, in September the case was reopened by the authorities, and last month Interpol said Assange was wanted for ‘sex crimes’.

    Yesterday, his lawyer Mark Stephens said the Swedish warrant was a ‘political stunt’ and that he would fight it on the grounds that it could lead to the WikiLeaks founder being handed over to the American authorities (Sweden has an ­extradition treaty with the U.S.).

    Assange continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong, and that his sexual encounters with both women were consensual.

    But last week, the Swedish High Court refused to hear his final appeal against arrest, and extra­dition papers were presented to police in England, where Assange is currently in hiding. He is able to stay in this country thanks to a six-month visa which expires in the spring.

    So what to make of a story in which it’s hard to argue that any of the ­parties emerges with much credit? How reliable are the two female witnesses?

    Earlier this year, Sarah is reported to have posted a telling entry on her website, which she has since removed. But a copy has been retrieved and widely circulated on the internet.

    Entitled ‘7 Steps to Legal Revenge’, it explains how women can use courts to get their own back on unfaithful lovers.

    Step 7 says: ‘Go to it and keep your goal in sight. Make sure your victim suffers just as you did.’ (The highlighting of text is Sarah’s own.)

    As for Assange, he remains in ­hiding in Britain, and his website continues to release classified American documents that are ­daily embarrassing the U.S. government.

    Clearly, he is responsible for an avalanche of political leaks. Whether he is also guilty of sexual offences remains to be seen.

    But the more one learns about the case, the more one feels that, unlike the bell in Enkoping, the allegations simply don’t ring true