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JULIAN ASSANGE

New details emerge about Assange accusers

As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vows to fight against his extradition to Sweden, police reports have shed more light on the women and the events at the centre of the sex crime allegations against him.

New details emerge about Assange accusers
photoSheikh.com; speaking in Stockholm in August (Bertil Ericsson/Scanpix)

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.”

The two Swedish women who accuse Julian Assange of rape, sexual molestation and coercion are a 31-year-old feminist activist and a 27-year-old admirer, various corroborative sources say.

Since the allegations the two have kept out of the spotlight, with one moving to the Palestinian territories on a Christian mission and the other cutting her phone line.

AFP is not revealing their full identities, which were kept secret by Swedish prosecutors.

Both Miss A and Miss W, as they were called in a British court hearing on Stockholm’s still pending demand for Assange to be extradited to Sweden for questioning about the allegations, are connected to him by an event on August 14.

That day, the 39-year-old Australian gave a seminar in Stockholm organised by the Social Democratic Party’s Christian wing and titled “The First Casualty of War is Truth”.

Miss A, 31, was working for the organisation and acted as an unofficial go-between for Assange and journalists during his visit.

She also allowed him to stay with her from his arrival in Stockholm on August 11, according to a transcript of the women’s account to police obtained by AFP.

Miss A and Assange had sex several times at her one-room Stockholm flat, according to Swedish tabloids, giving details that were blocked out of the police transcript.

Representatives of Swedish prosecutors told the British hearing that “unlawful coercion” occurred on August 14 because Assange held down Miss A in a sexual manner.

Another encounter on August 18 was characterised as “sexual molestation”, because Assange had sex with Miss A without a condom despite her “express wish” one should be used, they said.

Assange also “deliberately molested” Miss A on the same night “in a way designated to violate her sexual integrity”, the British court heard.

Nonetheless, the WikiLeaks head stayed at Miss A’s flat until August 20, even accompanying her to a party on August 15.

On her still active blog, the 31-year-old describes herself as “a political scientist, communicator, entrepreneur and freelance writer with special knowledge in faith and politics, equality matters, feminism and Latin America”.

A Master’s thesis on Cuba, her admiration for former Argentinian president Nestor Kirchner and a now-removed blog post on how to get revenge on an ex-boyfriend have led to a slew of cyberspace rumours about her motives for accusing Pentagon nemesis Assange.

“CIA agent, angry feminist/Muslim-lover, Christian fundamentalist, lesbian and desperately in love with a man, can one be all that at the same time?” she commented on her Twitter account earlier this month.

Miss W., 27, was also in the audience at Assange’s talk on August 14, sitting in a bright pink jumper on the front row with a number of journalists.

Her background and occupation are not as well know as her co-accuser’s, but her admiration for Assange and her encounters with him are described in detail in the police interview transcript.

She saw him on television discussing the release in July of classified US documents on the Afghanistan war, and told police she found him “interesting, courageous and admirable”.

When she found out the WikiLeaks head was speaking in Stockholm on August 14, she went to the event, insisted on spending the evening with Assange and friends after the talk, and ended up alone with him at the cinema.

There they flirted and he said he found her “very attractive,” she told police.

Two days later, they travelled to Miss W’s home in Enköping, some 50 kilometers northwest of Stockholm.

But Assange “spent the train ride looking at Twitter posts about himself” and by the time they arrived at her place, “the passion and excitement were gone”, she told investigators.

The rape allegations stem from later that night at Miss W’s home: the British court heard that Assange had sex with her without a condom while she was asleep.

The following morning, they had breakfast together, and “in an attempt to de-dramatise what happened”, she made “sarcastic comments”.

She then took him back to the train station and he promised to call her.

Defence lawyer Claes Borgström said the two women later discovered they had both had similar experiences with Assange and went to the police on August 20.

“They were not sure they wanted to (press charges), they wanted to get advice” and were also worried they could have contracted HIV, Borgström told reporters earlier this month.

“When they told the police officer, a woman, she realised that what (the women) were telling her about was a crime. She reported that to the public prosecutor who decided to arrest Assange,” the lawyer said.

The following day, the story made the front page of tabloid Expressen, launching the scandal and its numerous ramifications.

Assange has not been charged and says his lawyers have been given no evidence to back up the Swedish assertions, which prosecutors insist have nothing to do with the activities of WikiLeaks.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Sweden must demand that Julian Assange go free

Given Sweden’s involvement in the Assange case, the government’s continued silence over his impending extradition to the US is indefensible, says David Crouch

OPINION: Sweden must demand that Julian Assange go free

I have no personal fondness for Julian Assange. I cannot forgive him for not condemning the torrent of abuse and slander suffered by the two Swedish women who, in 2010, accused him of sexual assault. His treatment of them has been shameful. Assange has continued to protest his innocence and has not expressed any regret for what happened

But that was then and this is now. At stake is something much bigger than the fate of one man and two women. And the Swedish government bears a clear share of responsibility for the outcome. 

Sweden’s prosecutors dropped the sexual assault investigation against Assange in 2017. For more than three years, he has been held in a maximum security prison in London while he has fought extradition to the United States on espionage charges. In April, a British court finally approved the extradition and referred the matter to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. 

Today (June 17), Patel gave the green light for extradition; Assange has 14 days to appeal. 

Extradition would be a colossal blow against media freedom. Journalists would fear to investigate US military and surveillance operations around the world. Assange himself faces a lifetime in jail for publishing classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including evidence of war crimes

Many Swedish free speech organisations recognise this. “The information obtained thanks to Julian Assange and Wikileaks is of great public interest. In a democracy, whistleblowers must be protected, not taken to court to become pawns in a political game,” says the Swedish Journalists’ Association. A large number of press freedom and human right organisations have echoed these words, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship, to name but a few.

“Should Assange be extradited to the US, it could have serious consequences for investigative journalism,” says the Swedish branch of Reporters without Borders. “Through the indictment of Assange, the US is also sending a signal to all journalists who want to examine the actions of the US military and security services abroad, or US arms deals for that matter. This also applies to Swedish journalists.”

Last month, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called on Patel not to extradite Assange, saying it would have “a chilling effect on media freedom”.  Anna Ardin, one of the women who brought the original accusations of sexual assault, describes the accusations against Assange for espionage as “helt galet” (completely crazy). 

Given Sweden’s involvement in the Assange case, the continued silence from Rosenbad, the seat of government offices in Stockholm, is indefensible. 

For the seven years in which Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he said consistently and repeatedly that he was prepared to face justice in Sweden, but feared extradition to the United States and therefore required a guarantee that this would not happen. His treatment in the UK is proof that his fears were justified. 

As early as September 2012, The Local quoted Amnesty International on this matter: “If the Swedish authorities are able to confirm publicly that Assange will not eventually find himself on a plane to the USA if he submits himself to the authority of the Swedish courts then this will … it will break the current impasse and second it will mean the women who have levelled accusations of sexual assault are not denied justice.”

And yet, throughout, Sweden’s Ministry of Justice kept quiet. Instead, the Swedish Prosecution Authority stated repeatedly: “Every extradition case is to be judged on its own individual merits. For that reason the Swedish government cannot provide a guarantee in advance that Julian Assange would not be subject to further extradition to the USA.”

In 2016, a United Nations panel decided that Sweden had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It called on the Swedish authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his freedom of movement and offer him compensation. Again, the government itself remained silent, although Sweden’s director-general for legal affairs said that it disagreed with the panel.

Freedom of speech is one of the four “fundamental laws” that make up the Swedish constitution. There can be no excuse now for Morgan Johansson, Justice Minister, not to speak out in defence of Assange’s role as a whistleblower and journalist. 

Imagine if Assange had revealed Russian war crimes in Ukraine and was being held in Moscow’s high security prison? Every Western leader would be up in arms. 

Assange’s wife Stella Moris has Swedish citizenship. Her life, and that of their two children, will be destroyed if her husband, their father, is sent to rot in a US jail.

At this point in time, when Sweden’s independence in global affairs is in doubt owing to pressure from Turkey over its application to join Nato, it is even more vital for the government to break its silence and help bring the persecution of Julian Assange to an end. 

David Crouch covered Julian Assange’s campaign in the Swedish courts for The Guardian newspaper and is among 1900 journalists to have signed a statement in his defence. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University.

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