The Assange affair is not just about WikiLeaks, stupid
WIKILEAKS DOESN’T rape. WikiLeaks can’t make you pregnant. WikiLeaks can’t give you a sexually transmitted disease.
WikiLeaks is, according to Julian Assange in his Ecuadorean embassy balcony speech, all about “shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful” and “making a stand for justice”. It is about getting rid of a culture in which “citizens must whisper in the dark”. It is the antithesis of the “witch hunt”.
The crowd loved it. “I knew there would be witnesses,” he declared, to a surge of emotional applause. He spoke of his family, “my children, who have been denied their father”. But the speech was from the wrong play.
Assange has not sought political asylum because of WikiLeaks. He is on the run from allegations of rape. These alleged crimes are defined as both serious and non-political. Political asylum is a hard-won human right – Assange has abused it. In doing so he has endorsed a real witch hunt – against the women who allege he sexually coerced them.
Assange refused the Swedish public prosecutor’s request that he return to that country for questioning. Believing on the basis of the evidence before her that Assange has a case to answer, she instituted extradition proceedings.
Assange has spent much of the past two years fighting these in the British courts, and when his case failed he jumped bail and took refuge in the embassy of Ecuador, the government of which this summer demonstrated its commitment to freedom of speech by shutting down eight television and radio stations.
Not one word about the allegations in Sweden was uttered during Assange’s Evita-esque performance in London last weekend. We are expected to accept by now that a vast international conspiracy exists whereby the extradition order is merely a ploy to get Assange into Sweden so that the US will be able to extradite him in relation to WikiLeaks, sling him into Guantanamo detention centre and maybe even sentence him to death.
The fact the US has not sought to extradite Assange from the UK, which has the sort of right-wing government that would probably be all too ready to comply with such a request, is not addressed.
Nor is the fact that those accused of sexual offences routinely skip across borders to evade legal proceedings, and that the ability to extradite them is vital. Think Liam Dominic Adams. Think Fr Brendan Smyth. Nor that the assumptions behind the conspiracy theory are based on deeply misogynist notions of why women make rape allegations. Nor that the Swedish justice system is internationally respected in relation to its handling of crimes of sexual violence.