Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ecuador, land of the free!

Wikileaker-Supreme, Julian Assange, for these last two months closeted in the embassy of Ecuador in London, has been granted permanent refuge in Ecuador. Of course to take advantage of this offer Assange would have to leave the embassy and travel to an airport, and he would be arrested as soon as he stepped out of the front door.

Assange visited Sweden in 2010 where he  had consensual sex with two women who worked for Wikileaks. The two women approached the Swedish police to see if it would be possible to compel Assange to have an HIV test. Assange was questioned in Sweden but allowed to leave the country.

The real problem seems to be that Assange had sex with TWO women during his visit and when each woman found out about the other they decided to kick up a fuss.

Eventually an arrest warrant alleging rape was issued and extradition proceedings started. (In Sweden having sex without using a condom can constitute rape even if both parties are consenting.)

Most likely Assange has nothing to fear from a trial in Sweden. The two women no longer want to pursue any sort of action against him (if he had infected them, they would know it by now) and it would probably embarrass the Swedish authorities if they had to try him. So far no charges have been laid, and the official position is that the Stockholm police just want to question him some more. Assange has offered them the opportunity to question him in the UK but they have declined. All the indications are they do not want this case to proceed. It would show Sweden in very bad light.

Assange's true fear is that once in Sweden he would be taken to the USA. Senior politicians in America have already taken to calling him a terrorist. Newt Gingrich called him an "enemy combatant" - which means he could be taken off to Guantanamo Bay. In the USA Assange fears the prospect of a life sentence in a super-max prison where he would basically never be heard from again. Hence his rather desperate attempts to avoid going to Sweden. (The Swedes would certainly make it a condition of his extradition that he would not be subject to the death penalty - regardless of what he was convicted.)

This does raise the question: would it really be easier for the Americans to extradite him from Sweden than from the UK? The answer has got to be no. The Americans fairly easily extradite even British citizens from the UK on very flimsy evidence. And Assange is an Australian.

So in fact, the Americans do not really want him either. The reason being: it would be difficult bordering on impossible to convict him of any crime in a US court. There is no Official Secrecy Act in the USA. The 1st Amendment (Right to Free Speech) makes it incredibly difficult to convict someone for leaking an official secret unless they are actually employed by the government. And Assange is not even an American, let alone an employee of Uncle Sam. Hence no extradition request from the Americans has been received.

Assange's fears of authority are largely groundless. His over-reaction is more to do with his character than any genuine prospect of conviction. He is a constant fugative; needlessly moving from country to country, forever fighting the governments of the world. His upbringing was in this vein: demos against the Vietnam War, fleeing across Australia rather than facing some imagined legal action. Even setting up WikiLeaks is totally in character. The kind of person who would set up WikiLeaks is the kind of person who will never submit to any form of judicial process.

Likely he will not be able to get from the Ecuadoran embassy to an airport. If by some miracle he does smuggle himself to Ecuador likely he would not stay there long. He would move on; get picked up by some other government - his persecution complex would grow as a result - and the whole cycle would start again.

He might as well give up and get it over with, but he won't.

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