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What Stephen Fry made me do: more on the Assange drama

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Equador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino

I signed up to Twitter three and a half years ago, tweeted something into the nethersphere, and haven’t been back until today. Since all the advice I read and hear is to network, network, network, linking blog to podcast to facebook to twitter etc etc, I decided to resurrect my Twitter account, and since I have no friends I thought I’d give Stephen Fry a go as I’ve heard he’s a big tweeter and would probably benefit from my friendship. Anyway, amongst the great morass of subjects he manages to tweet about daily, he tweeted this link, a rather defensive piece by a Swedish law professor complaining about how the Swedish justice system has been impugned on the international stage by the Assange case.

The professor got me offside with his opening line, ‘Julian Assange’s bizarre bid for political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London has claimed headlines everywhere…’ I know enough of history, and of the crushing ruthlessness of major military and economic powers throughout history when they feel that power is under the slightest threat, to find Assange’s bid for asylum, in Equador or anywhere else, to be anything but bizarre. He then went on to make rather bland and general assurances about the normality, openness and complete lack of corruption of Swedish justice. He went as far as to say that it’s more than likely that, after questioning, Assange will be released without charge. He finishes off the piece with this assurance:

Finally, no, the Swedish police will not place Assange on a CIA-chartered plane as soon as he arrives at Stockholm airport. They, like all other Swedish authorities, will discharge their duties according to the law.

Okay, no wucken furries then.

I don’t know if I need to say more, but I will. Assange would have to be fucking insane to allow himself to be hauled off to Sweden, for what clearly wasn’t a major legal infringement, if it was an infringement at all. I would urge everyone who hasn’t seen it to view the recent 4 corners program on this.

And of course the point is most definitely not about the Swedish legal system. It is about the USA. It has always been all about the USA. We’re told that, since Assange hasn’t actually been charged with anything, he’s only wanted for questioning. If that were true, then Swedish authorities should be permitted to come to Britain and question him there. That seems an obvious solution, at least a temporary one. If the Swedish authorities then feel that they have enough evidence  to charge him, then yes we have another crisis. And this is what would make me feel suspicious if I were Assange – in fact I might feel a lot more than just suspicious, because Assange probably knows more about the USA’s involvement in the case than we know that he knows. Even if he doesn’t know anything specific, he’s been working on the USA’s foreign policy bullyings for years. He’s anything but naive about that particular beast.

Even what we know about the behaviour of the Swedish authorities would make us alarmed. They just want to question him but they won’t go over to the UK to do it. This would surely suggest that they have more than questioning in mind. The way the case has been handled so far would give cause for concern. It was virtually dropped before suddenly being taken up again, and at least one of the women appears to be quite upset and angry at this. Newspapers often make claims about rape charges, but there was no rape in the case of these two women, neither of whom withheld consent, and neither of whom were assaulted. The issue seems to have been about the use or non-use of a condom. People may argue about whether this is a serious matter, but I can’t see how questioning Assange would help them arrive at a decision as to whether he was wearing a condom on both or either occasion. And if it did help them, why wouldn’t they go over to London to question him? It just seems as if they’re doing everything they can to entice him to Sweden.

Why? Well, both the UK and Sweden have extradition treaties with the USA, but the treaty with the UK has been a cause of conflict for both countries for years, whereas, the Swedish arrangement appears to be much cosier….

there is a bilateral treaty between the US and Sweden that allows for extradition without consent from the UK or minimum tests. This is the temporary surrender/conditional release regime – automatic extradition on a loan basis. It is highly likely that the United States will soon request Julian Assange’s extradition from Sweden and this mechanism will be used while Julian Assange is in Swedish custody.

This admittedly comes from a pro-Assange site, but I for one would be advising Assange to be staying exactly where he is, and I commend the Equadorian government for its actions. As Greg Barns points out in a piece written just the other day, the USA’s heavy-handed and occasionally stomach-churning interference in the internal affairs of many Latin American countries makes Equador’s actions less surprising, but perhaps all the more admirable.

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Written by stewart henderson

August 19, 2012 at 1:14 am

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