Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed in up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for about two months now. The British government is trying to have him arrested and have him extradited to Sweden to face rape allegations. Well, the Ecuadorian government has granted him political asylum, but the British government has made it very clear that they will not allow him safe passage to Ecuador and have surrounded the embassy with armed policemen. This is an issue where there is a lot of passion, especially among Assange’s defenders who see him as a crusader against the imperialism and the war crimes of the Western world and particularly the United States. In this passion, there have been been a lot of confusion about the facts involved in this case. I will do my best in this piece to shed some light on what this case is all about.
1) Julian Assange has not been charged in the United States for anything. Despite the calls from various lawmakers and political commentators in the United States, Assange has not been charged with any crimes related the various publications of classified documents by Wikileaks. Assange and his supporters have alleged that a grand jury has been convened and already has a sealed indictment against him, but the US Department of Justice will only say that there is an active investigation ongoing against him. Whether or not Assange should be charged with any crimes in the United States, I honestly don’t know. I have not the chance to research the espionage laws nor do I or anyone else for that matter have all the facts in this case. The only way I see us learning more about the case is once the Bradley Manning case is resolved.
2) Assange needs to frankly man up and go answer the rape allegations in Sweden. Right now, Assange has not been charged with anything in Sweden, but he is wanted for questioning for allegedly raping two women. Assange and his supporters claim that if he is extradited to Sweden, he will then be extradited to the United States. However, Assange has not been charged with a crime in the United States. Also, Sweden will not extradite anyone who could face the death penalty to the United States. Finally, the country that has a fairly lenient extradition treaty with the US is Great Britain. If Assange was to be whisked away to the United States, it would be done by the British government themselves.
3) This is not a free speech or anti-war issue…..yet. The big issue in this case is the rule of law at least right now. I like the idea of Wikileaks (if not necessarily the actual practices of Wikileaks or even Julian Assange himself) which reports the secrets, especially if those secrets cover up atrocities and other illegal deeds our leaders would not like us to know. Wikileaks, along with the media in general, are there to remind governments that they are not above the law and to hold them accountable to their citizens. However, not only are governments not above the law, neither is Julian Assange himself.
This case is not necessarily the great noble crusader Julian Assange taking on the evil imperialist US. This is simply a man with a big ego who is making a mockery of the justice system in both the UK and Sweden. The UK government has no choice but to hand Assange over to the Swedes under the European Arrest Warrant. The Swedes have an excellent criminal justice system by all accounts and if there is not enough evidence to sustain the rape allegations, Assange will and should be freed. But, Assange needs to do what every other person has to do if they are accused of a crime, which is answer to the allegations.