Julian Assange has won the case against his extradition to the United States on espionage charges, however the court has denied his release on bale pending an appeal by U.S. prosecutors. If the appeal succeeds, he still faces more than a lifetime in prison for publishing documents that revealed U.S. war crimes and government misconduct.
Assange has sought to end wars, uncover corruption, and expose illegal surveillance programs. WikiLeak’s publications have led to justice for victims of government abuses, reform of unjust policies, and the end of dictatorships. Assange has won dozens of prizes for his journalistic work, and hundreds of major media organisations now use the whistleblower system pioneered by Assange and WikiLeaks. His prosecution threatens journalism, freedom of speech and democracy worldwide.
Despite all of this, many regard his plight with indifference, scorn or hostility. I think this is largely due to the stigma that still prevails due to his alleged sexual offences in Sweden in August 2010 and the belief that he helped Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
If you support Julian Assange and the work of WikiLleaks, you’re probably aware of the facts but might find the following helpful when talking with those less well informed. If you don’t support Assange you might be surprised by what follows and hopefully reflect on whether or not your opinion is your own or the result of the relentless smear campaign waged against him for more than 10 years.
- Julian Assange has never been charged with any sexual offence.
- The women involved did not accuse Assange of rape.
- Assange did not flee Sweden to evade rape charges.
- Assange did not “hide out” in the Ecuadorian embassy to evade questioning.
- Assange had every right to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy.
- Assange and Wikileaks exposed war crimes and government corruption.
- There is no evidence that Assange interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Let ‘s explore each point in more detail.
1. Julian Assange has never been charged with any sexual offence.
Many wrongly believe that Assange was charged with raping two women in Sweden. The truth is that he was never charged with rape or any other sexual offence.
2. The women involved did not accuse Assange of rape.
In fact, they denied he had raped them. Both women agreed that the alleged incidents occurred during consensual sexual encounters with Assange.
One woman alleged that during sex he deliberately broke a condom. That case was dropped in 2015. The other woman alleged that in the morning after a night of sex, Assange had unprotected intercourse with her while she was “half asleep”. She allowed the sex to continue and went to the police only to ask if Assange could be made to have an HIV test (to which he had already agreed).
Swedish prosecutors classified the incident as mindre grov våldtäkt, which translates as “less aggravated rape” or “minor rape”, a designation unique to Swedish law. Assange denied the allegations. It was the women’s word against his. The story was leaked to a major Swedish newspaper and immediately spread around the world.
3. Assange did not flee Sweden to evade rape charges.
There were no charges, only allegations. The Swedish authorities wanted to question him over those allegations. However Assange had already been questioned voluntarily by the police on 30 August 2010. He waited until September 27 before leaving Sweden after receiving permission to leave from the Swedish prosecutors.
4. Assange did not “hide out” in the Equadorian embassy to evade questioning.
He was always willing to be interviewed in the embassy or by Skype. He was also willing to return to Sweden for questioning provided Swedish authorities guaranteed that he would not be extradited to the United States. Inexplicably, for more than six years the Swedish prosecutor refused those sensible solutions, but finally did interview him at the embassy in November 2016.
On April 11, 2019 the “preliminary investigation” was opened and closed for the third time after Assange had been dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy. By then, despite the women denying they had been raped and never having been charged by the Swedish authorities, Assange was forever labelled a suspected rapist.
The mass media treated the possibility of extradition to the U.S. with ridicule, creating the public perception that his seven years refuge at the embassy was a cowardly attempt to evade “rape charges”. Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon smeared Assange as a “rapist” and used the lie to discredit WikiLeaks.
5. Assange had every right to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy.
Under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone has the right to seek political asylum. Assange sought and was granted asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy for fear of extradition to the United States in response to his work at WikiLeaks exposing war crimes. History has proven that fear was well founded.
6. Assange and WikiLeaks exposed war crimes and government corruption.
By providing a secure “dropbox” system, Wikileaks enables whistleblowers to supply evidence anonymously of government crimes and corruption. Examples of documented U.S. crimes include:
- The “Collateral Murder” Apache gunsight video released in April 2010 which shows the brutal massacre of more than 12 civilians including a Reuters journalist and his assistant in Bagdad, Iraq. Two rescuers who tried to assist the wounded were also deliberately killed and two of a rescuer’s young children seriously injured.
- The Afghan War Logs, released by Wikileaks in October 2010 which include more than 76,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.
- The Iraq War Logs, with more than 391,000 reports documenting the war and occupation in Iraq from January 2004 to December 2009.
Those three releases in particular expose the unspeakable horrors unleashed, and still ongoing, by the illegal U.S. led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
7. There is no evidence that Assange interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Due to the relentless “Russiagate” propaganda campaign, many still believe that Assange helped the Russians “hack” into Hillary Clinton’s campaign so that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. The two year long Mueller investigation claimed that Russia tried to influence the election by “hacking” Democratic organisations and spreading “disinformation” and “social media discord”. But we are still waiting to see any real evidence of that. So did Assange help the Russians do something that didn’t happen?
WikiLeaks did release the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails and the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which provided an insight into DNC corruption and the true character of a presidential candidate — information voters had every right to know. Of course, that has nothing to do with the current U.S. charges against Assange but the “hacker” smear like the “rapist” smear is still bandied about and believed by many.
The persecution of Julian Assange is a disgrace.
Lisa Longstaff and Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape summed it up perfectly in the 23 August, 2012 edition of The Guardian: “…the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction … The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange’s extradition or even rendition to the US.”