Can we have an honest discussion about Assange?
I’m getting a little bit sad watching the extreme shallowness of dialog surface again regarding the Julien Assange case. This is a situation that is filled with all kinds of nuance and I see it being treated on both sides as a simplistic matter of absolutes.
Here are the basic facts:
-Assange is wanted by Swedish prosecutors on a material witness warrant regarding potential sexual misconduct. He hasn’t been charged with any crime.
-He is wanted, by prosecutors, to answer questions regarding his potentially having engaged in surprise sex, refusing to wear a condom after being told to and initiating sex with a sleeping woman.
-The two women claimed to be his victims never actually filed charges against him themselves. One claimed her sole purpose in going to the police was to seek help forcing him to take an STD test and the other went to the police claiming to be “moral support” for the first.
-The two women got in contact with each other and compared stories before talking to the police. Unfortunately this is problematic from any law enforcement point of view.
-Assange told several of his friends that he had agreed to return to Sweden to discuss the case with prosecutors, he didn’t. This is bad, it makes him look guilty and unwilling to hold up his end of an agreement.
-Assange is deeply paranoid that a secret conspiracy exists to extradite him to the US once he’s in Swedish custody.
Now my opinion:
Assange should have returned to Sweden as he agreed to. This is the primary cause of his predicament, his failure to honor his word to the prosecutors was a strategically terrible decision. Had he done so his reputation would be in a stronger position because he wouldn’t look like a frightened criminal with something to hide.
The case against him in Sweden appears weak. Sorry, that’s just an honest reading. Admittedly I know little about Swedish law but having non-accusatory accusers collaborate their stories before going to police is going to present issues in pretty much any jurisdiction.
Despite what you or I personally thinks of Assange, his rights should still matter. We dismiss them at long term risk to our own. The fact that he’s been held, by a democratic government, for something like two years for extradition on a material witness warrant is, I believe, completely unprecedented. As in as far as I can tell it’s never happened before, to anyone, ever. If this doesn’t give you pause fine, I find it to be fairly disturbing.
If you think his rights don’t matter because he’s a “spymaster” or some such public enemy of the United States, then be prepared to explain why he hasn’t been charged or accused as such by our government. For me this is the fundamental thing, the man hasn’t actually been accused of anything. I think it would be nice if we honored this bit of our shared legal heritage before we decided that the man’s rights no longer matter.
There, that’s my assessment so far. I don’t think this is a cut and dry situation, conducive to a simplistic analysis. Assange has done a lot to place himself at the center of this shit storm and done very little to extract himself from it with any semblance of dignity. However, I can’t help but feel that the man’s rights should still matter, and that he’s being singled out in a troubling way for unprecedented treatment.