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Extradition part of 'smear campaign': Assange

AFP/The Local · 17 Dec 2010, 10:41

Published: 17 Dec 2010 10:41 GMT+01:00

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The 39-year-old Australian said he would continue to protest his innocence in the face of allegations that he sexually assaulted two women in Stockholm and vowed to continue releasing secret US documents through his website.

Following his release Thursday after nine days in a London prison since his arrest on a Swedish warrant on December 7th, Assange told the BBC the allegations against him were "a very successful smear campaign and a very wrong one."

He also told reporters that he expected the US, which has condemned the WikiLeaks cable releases, to bring spy charges against him.

Assange was freed after the High Court in London rejected an attempt by British lawyers acting for Sweden to keep him in jail while he fights the extradition attempt, a process that could take months.

As part of his bail conditions, he must live at friend's Georgian mansion near the rural town of Bungay in Suffolk, eastern England. He has also been electronically tagged, is subject to a curfew and must report to police daily.

Assange's release was the result of a nine-day battle by his lawyers. After denying him bail on December 7th, a judge granted it on Tuesday, but kept the Australian in custody while prosecuting lawyers appealed at the High Court.

Speaking to jubilant supporters on the steps of the court building after that appeal was denied on Thursday, Assange said, "I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it -- which we have not yet -- the evidence from these allegations."

WikiLeaks has caused embarrassment and anger in Washington by releasing hundreds of classified US diplomatic cables and his supporters have linked his detention to the massive leak.

As Assange arrived at Ellingham Hall, the 10-bedroomed Suffolk mansion that will be his home over the coming months, he said he expected the US to bring legal action against him.

"We have heard today from one of my US lawyers, yet to be confirmed, but a serious matter, that there may be a US indictment for espionage for me, coming from a secret US grand jury investigation," he said.

He expressed fears that the extradition proceedings to Sweden were "actually an attempt to get me into a jurisdiction which will then make it easier to extradite me to the US."

Swedish prosecutors have denied the case has anything to do with WikiLeaks.

Ellingham Hall, set in 240 hectares of parkland, belongs to Vaughan Smith, a former army officer and journalist who founded the Frontline Club, a media club in London which acts as WikiLeaks' British base.

"It is very nice to be free for Christmas and to smell the fresh air," Assange said as he arrived amid falling snow.

Assange said he had been held in solitary confinement for much of his time in London's Wandsworth Prison.

Story continues below…

High Court Judge Duncan Ouseley granted the former computer hacker bail after rejecting the prosecution's argument that he was a flight risk.

"The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution," he told the packed court as Assange looked on from the dock.

However, supporters had to pay £200,000 ($312,700) upfront as part of a £240,000 surety.

Assange's mother, Christine, told reporters outside court, "I'm very, very happy with the decision. I can't wait to see my son and to hold him close."

The latest US cables released by WikiLeaks on Friday showed the International Committee of the Red Cross provided US diplomats in 2005 with evidence of the systematic use of torture by Indian security forces in Kashmir.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:58 December 17, 2010 by leiiel
Who's paying the Swedish lawyers, etc. involved in this affair??? How much of our tax money is involved? If our taxes are being used to pursue Assange for alleged sex crimes, then every person in Sweden who is accused of a sex crime should be pursued with this same gusto, eller?! I am not saying that Assange is guilty. But based on the Swedish handling of this matter, the implications are that women who are (allegedly) assaulted by celebrities are helped while women who are (allegedly) assaulted by nobodies get little help, by comparison. And really, shouldn't some attention be focused on the poor (alleged) victims here? Is the warm, fuzzy, caring Swedish healthcare system helping them recover from the horrible ordeal that they've suffered? Are they getting the care they need? Are their familjeläkares allowing them to see a psychiatrist for counseling? Are they on a waiting list to get help? When does Sweden ever give a d%#m about the health and wellbeing of its taxpayers? Never. This scandal is obviously serving some government agenda. Otherwise, no one would ever give a d%#m about these two women... Wake up people, the Swedish government cares about how much money they can steal from you. The Swedish government does not care about you. You are a tool to be used and nothing more.
13:23 December 17, 2010 by actuary
Consensual sex is not the business of the authorities - stay out of bedrooms and stick your noses elsewhere: concentrate your resources on the prevention of serious crimes - not tit-for-tat, spurned lover's complaints.
13:56 December 17, 2010 by Nilspet
@ leiiel

You are right and I am sorry to say that most governments in the world are like that. Sweden is not unique. They care MORE about taking money and power from you than giving you what you need when you need it. However in this case this smear campaign (whatever you want to term it) is tarnishing Sweden's reputation for fairness and equal treatments. Most of us believe that Assange has done nothing wrong in Sweden but even if he did (i.e. unintentionally broke the condom which is called 'rape' by some i... f...) it is still super nonsense that SO MUCH money and huge resources have been wasted just to "question" him. Worse, no Swedish-language media report this fiasco to us.

To give a perspective on how our government has been wasting our assets and resources for this case (I am not saying that JA is guilty in any case): imagine that the Swedish government order the Swedish Air Force to send two JAS Gripen to chase a taxi speeding at say 120 km/h on the E4 motorway with 110 km/h as a maximum speed limit. There is NO way the Air Force would take such an irrational and stupid order. A taxi speeding at 10 km/h over the speed limit (sure this is illegal according to the traffic law) is not worth any attention by the Air Force to use its fighter jet like the Gripen. Just to start up a Gripen and fly it for 30 minutes costs more than a monthly salary of a police officer. Hence we should really question the authorities involved in trying to just "question" Assange how much of our tax money they have wasted to date.

Given all the irrational waste of resources together with unproportional actions/reactions from the Swedish authorities for just "questioning" an innocent person, the world has come to realize that this is nothing more than a smear campaign.
14:11 December 17, 2010 by Iri
@Made In Dublin i am agree with you,, Sweden is following the steps of the Big Boss,,,,Sweden turning into United States of Sweden,,,,,,,,,,
15:24 December 17, 2010 by thebittertruth
@ Nilspet, You have made one of the most excellent and rationally correct assessment of the situation.

I think it is time Swedes stand up and hold their Leaders accountable for wasting tax-payers resources .
15:50 December 17, 2010 by rocky92
It looks like Sweden is spending a lot of money serving for US persecution.
16:14 December 17, 2010 by Cheesedoff17
What an incredible man hunt it has been. If only all these governments spent as much time and effort chasing tax evaders, we would all be better off. But it all looks like a consorted effort to stifle some nasty state secrets.
16:15 December 17, 2010 by procrustes
Read Michael Moore's letter to Sweden just posted (below). Circulate it to your Swedish friends--they need to know how their leaders have abused their office and trashed their country's sterling reputation. Disgust and profound disappointment is what people are feeling. There should be demonstrations demanding that Ask, Ny et. al. be thrown out of office and prosecuted for misusing their governmental powers.

16:32 December 17, 2010 by cmbsweden
I would suggest reading Michael Moore's open letter to the Swedish government....he says it all quite well methinks...

16:55 December 17, 2010 by tadchem
I find that his insinuation of a conspiracy between the US and Sweden overestimates the intelligence of the American "Intelligence" community and insults the integrity of Sweden.
17:19 December 17, 2010 by cmbsweden
Uhm I would say that Sweden has not shown a whole lot of integrity here recently.

Only someone truly naive would truly believe that Sweden has done this (pursue Assange via Interpol for an allegation) on their own voalition when the facts show that as a rule, rape is rarely prosecuted at all here (see Michael Moore's letter).

By the way, apologies to procustes; I did not see you had posted the link to Moore's letter until after I had posted it.
17:57 December 17, 2010 by Kaethar
"I find that his insinuation of a conspiracy between the US and Sweden overestimates the intelligence of the American "Intelligence" community and insults the integrity of Sweden.""


I am sick and tired of this conspiracy theory - especially the Sweden bashing that comes with it. OF COURSE Assange is going to say it's a smear campaign because it works in his favor. The same thing happened during the rapes in Bjästa. Most people sided with the alleged rapist and the girl was bullied and called a whore/liar. They whole town tried to discredit her. The boy was eventually convicted of double rape but the girl and her family had to move anyway - the emotional damage had already been done. :(

I hope Assange is extradited soon to Sweden so the whole world can see Sweden won't extradite him to the US. Of course, if they actually do Sweden deserves to be bashed. But as it is now Sweden is being bashed anyway so Sweden's got nothing to loose really. Plus it's still 10 times were already - because all this bashing and negativity is based on nothing but SPECULATION.
18:09 December 17, 2010 by thinkwise
Here is a recent post by the documentary film maker Michael Moore:

Sweden has a legacy of horrible treatment of rape victims and dismal protection of women who are real victims of rape. It is very telling that the Swedish government used false rape charges against Assange as a political tactic.

The saddest part about this entire scandal is that real victims of rape are the ones who stand to lose the most from driven smear campaigns that use rape as a sword for political advantage.


Dear Swedish Government:

Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your Volvos, your meatballs, your hard-to-put-together furniture -- we can't get enough!

There's just one thing that bothers me -- why has Amnesty International, in a special report, declared that Sweden refuses to deal with the very real tragedy of rape? In fact, they say that all over Scandinavia, including in your country, rapists "enjoy impunity." And the United Nations, the EU and Swedish human rights groups have come to the same conclusion: Sweden just doesn't take sexual assault against women seriously. How else do you explain these statistics from Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape:

- Sweden has the HIGHEST per capita number of reported rapes in Europe.

- This number of rapes has quadrupled in the last 20 years.

- The conviction rates? They have steadily DECREASED.

Axelsson says: "On April 23rd of this year, Carina Hägg and Nalin Pekgul (respectively MP and chairwoman of Social Democratic Women in Sweden) wrote in the Göteborgs [newspaper] that 'up to 90% of all reported rapes [in Sweden] never get to court.'"

Let me say that again: nine out of ten times, when women report they have been raped, you never even bother to start legal proceedings. No wonder that, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, it is now statistically more likely that someone in Sweden will be sexually assaulted than that they will be robbed.

Message to rapists? Sweden loves you!

So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden you decided to go after one Julian Assange on sexual assault charges. Well, sort of: first you charged him. Then after investigating it, you dropped the most serious charges and rescinded the arrest warrant.
18:12 December 17, 2010 by Kaethar
@cmbsweden: Sexual crimes are extremely difficult to prove in court, especially in Sweden where there is a broad definition of what rape is. It often turns into a ""he says, she says" scenario most times anyway. So like with any similar crime it makes sense for the government to try to set an example with a high-profile case. It's not like suspects wouldn't be questioned usually (and that's what Assange is wanted for - questioning) but it's unusual to go after rapists internationally since there simply aren't the resources for that. But they're trying to make a point in this high-profile case to show that no one can get away with rape/unlawful coercion/etc no matter how powerful they are. Which makes perfect sense to me.
18:13 December 17, 2010 by thinkwise
Then a conservative MP put pressure on you and, lo and behold, you did a 180 and reopened the Assange investigation. Except you still didn't charge him with anything. You just wanted him for "questioning." So you -- you who have sat by and let thousands of Swedish women be raped while letting their rapists go scott-free -- you decided it was now time to crack down on one man -- the one man the American government wants arrested, jailed or (depending on which politician or pundit you listen to) executed. You just happened to go after him, on one possible "count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape (third degree)." And while thousands of Swedish rapists roam free, you instigated a huge international manhunt on Interpol for this Julian Assange!

What anti-rape crusaders you've become, Swedish government! Women in Sweden must suddenly feel safer?

Well, not really. Actually, many see right through you. They know what these "non-charge charges" are really about. And they know that you are cynically and disgustingly using the real and everyday threat that exists against women everywhere to help further the American government's interest in silencing the work of WikiLeaks.

I don't pretend to know what happened between Mr. Assange and the two women complainants (all I know is what I've heard in the media, so I'm as confused as the next person). And I'm sorry if I've jumped to any unnecessary or wrong-headed conclusions in my efforts to state a very core American value: All people are absolutely innocent until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. I strongly believe every accusation of sexual assault must be investigated vigorously. There is nothing wrong with your police wanting to question Mr. Assange about these allegations, and while I understand why he seemed to go into hiding (people tend to do that when threatened with assassination), he nonetheless should answer the police's questions. He should also submit to the STD testing the alleged victims have requested. I believe Sweden and the UK have a treaty and a means for you to send your investigators to London so they can question Mr. Assange where he is under house arrest while out on bail.

But that really wouldn't be like you would it, to go all the way to another country to pursue a suspect for sexual assault when you can't even bring yourselves to make it down to the street to your own courthouse to go after the scores of reported rapists in your country. That you, Sweden, have chosen to rarely do that in the past, is why this whole thing stinks to the high heavens.

And let's not forget this one final point from Women Against Rape's Katrin Axelsson:
18:18 December 17, 2010 by Luis17lp
I respect dignity J.Assange, freedow of religion and justice (Humain rights).
18:25 December 17, 2010 by cmbsweden

I don't believe Michael Moore was commenting on the success rate of prosecutions for rape; that is an entirely different subject (apples and oranges).

He was commenting on the fact that so very few are prosecuted at all, period. In other words, they never make it into a court of law.

Prosecuting rape is difficult in almost any democratic country that has any semblence of due process, simply because most defense attorneys will attack the victim. Standard defense strategy.

That more than anything is why a lot of women never even report rape; they don't want to have to relive the act over and over in court and have themselves labeled as sluts, tramps, or "asking for it in the first place".
18:53 December 17, 2010 by Nilspet
@ Kaethar

Please "look" into the extreme irregularities (twists and turns, ...) of this case from the very beginning, and you will come to the same conclusion like the rest of the free world do.

Luckily for us, many people out there are friends of Sweden and they have been trying their best to be polite and indirect to us. If there weren't friends with us they would have criticized us much more strongly. Do not just listen to the Swedish media at home.
19:23 December 17, 2010 by procrustes
On the Swedish followup to rape complaints: Could it be that so many women feeling jilted take advantage of Sweden's broad definition of rape that the police can't cope? Given that the woman who fled to Palestine had published a wiki on how to use Sweden's rape laws to extract revenge for being dumped, I wonder if a huge number of the rape complaints are not rape at all and the poor police have to deal with it.

I'm sure if a woman shows up traumatized claiming rape the police would pursue the case at full speed. I do not believe that Sweden is in the midst of world worst rape epidemic. I do believe the statistics that can be interpreted to claim Sweden is in a horrific rape epidemic. So...how do I reconcile the two opposing facts? I think there may be too many Swedish women abusing the law.

Maybe someone should look into this. Maybe, if the case that women are abusing the laws is true, new laws need to passed putting false claimants in jail.
19:35 December 17, 2010 by GLO
Assange is just a common criminal, enemy combatant that wants to be someone no matter who gets hurt. He works with support from many, Hitler was praised, worshiped Sweden bent over to help him do his deeds. People need to stand up to evil.
19:44 December 17, 2010 by locaxy

Insult Sweden's "integrity"? Well...that's a new low for the folks rationalizing this witch-hunt.

Sweden is not special. It has a government that is inclined to grow in power, and talented crusaders for Freedom makes it nervous. Hence, the big guns were drawn out to smear Assange and take down Wikileaks.

The internet and the power it gives individuals is scarring the hell out of The Establishment. Be they governments hell-bent on social engineering, or corporations that can't adapt to this paradigm-shifting technology.
21:25 December 17, 2010 by sgt_doom

In the same Olof Palme Centre which houses the offices of the Social Democrat Party, one also finds nearby the offices of the National Endowment for Democracy. (The N.E.D. just happens to be funded by the US government, and was set up by President Reagan in 1983 as a civilian extension to covert activities overseas.)
22:07 December 17, 2010 by PaulPC
Leiiel says: "Who's paying the Swedish lawyers, etc. involved in this affair??? How much of our tax money is involved?"

Regrettably, the British tax payer is paying the costs of prosecuting (or should that be persecuting) Julian Assange in the UK. Frankly I think the Brits should be sending Swedish Prosecutor Marianne Ny the bill with a surcharge for 'wasting tax payers money'.
00:54 December 18, 2010 by Great Scott
To the Local

A message to the Local If we cannot comment on it, DO NOT PRINT IT.

By the way assange is a clown and for those against peace and the truth, just follow him and be fools as well. Are you so stupid that he is making millions out you and you are so naive that you cannot see it FOOLS?
02:33 December 18, 2010 by Toonie
Lots of interesting points.

@Great Scott - If Assange is a clown, as you say, then he is a clown that is very much appreciated by governments around the world that are setting up enquiries into scandals that have come to light thanks to Wikileaks. So that's a contribution to transparency and accountability.

Interesting that the Swedish press seems not to be reporting this story at the moment. From my reading of big Swedish cases in the past, I suspect that the authorities will be leaking like sieves to Swedish journalists - to keep them 'in the know'. In exchange, the relatively docile Swedish press corps will toe the line. Who are the well known investigative reporters in Sweden at the moment? Does anybody know?

An interesting legal point. Senior US legal officers are saying that it would be more difficult to extradite Assange from Sweden since breaking US law is not necessarily sufficient grounds for an extradition. It needs to be shown that he's broken both US and Swedish laws. In a case as serious as this - making use of classified information supplied by a member of the US military.

However, Sweden is able to extradite Assange from the UK without having to present any evidence that he has broken Swedish laws, and on allegations that would be laughed out of a British court. There is a glaring inconsistency in process, entirely dependent on which country Sweden is dealing with. (I'm not saying this wouldn't be the case across many other EU countries - it is.)

It might be easier if Assange could be shown responsible for sex without a condom in the USA at some point in the past. Then Sweden could hand him over in an instant, and with a good conscience.

After all the huffing and puffing, it'll be interesting to see how this compares with the US case against Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers re the Vietnam War. People did die as a result of that release. But the Supreme Court vindicated Ellsberg in the end. Freedom to know ultimately trumped the govt's need to hide. We shall see if it does this time.
03:03 December 18, 2010 by BERTRAM
JuLian Looks like DaviD boWIe

one more reason to love him

and to close the mouth of the ennemies of the truth
10:40 December 18, 2010 by cmbsweden

Very nice post.
17:37 December 18, 2010 by j joy
I'm not sure Assange is a hero or a villain, just yet. One thing I do know is that the leaks are causing problems in many countries. Grace Mugabe is suing the Zimbabwe Standard (an independent weekly paper) in South Africa, for 15 million dollars because of the wikileaks. The paper accused her of illegally dealing in the diamond trade. You see the trouble the leaks might cause between Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers, in that volatile region of Kashmir, because of reports of possible torture by the Indian authorities? These Wikileaks have become a problem, not just for the US, but for many other countries. Perhaps it is the US that is being pressured to stop Assange? Think about it.
19:09 December 28, 2010 by buckrogersday
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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