Julian Assange should face his accusers
THE HARD WORD | Blurring Assange’s possible extradition to the US with facing the same legal processes as the rest of us is unhelpful and the ensuing scaremongering has been completely overblown.
THE vitriol, the hatred, the sordid attempts at support and the indifference to Julian Assange which has spewed from the pages of every national newspaper across the world, as well as the mouths of many a concerned individual, has been fierce.
And rightly so, for Assange is many things to many people. Whistleblower, truth and justice seeker, freedom fighter, bail skipper, alleged sexual predator – take your pick. But the Australian’s latest manoeuvre has sparked incredible debate, driven as much by those who support him as they who ridicule him.
But what to make of it all? The issues are complex and far-reaching but for this scribe this latest ordeal seems like a straight up and down case.
Assange is wanted in Sweden by prosecutors in relation to alleged sexual crimes. After jumping bail in June, Assange found sanctuary in Ecuador’s embassy in London. Britain is legally obliged to extradite him for questioning over alleged assault and rape claims. Yet, as a signatory to the Vienna Convention, now cannot do so.
The UK threatened to overturn all accepted diplomatic norms by storm the building - sovereign Ecuadorian territory – sighting an obscure legal loophole. The provocation merely attracted condemnation and ridicule, and rightly so.
However, Assange’s supporters seem to forget the fact that, however flimsy the evidence, these are serious allegations and need to be treated as such, especially by the man himself.
While Assange hasn’t been convicted of anything, his determination to avoid facing the charges by claiming asylum is ill-conceived and frankly a bit suspicious.
The Australian Government has been shamelessly subdued. Despite claims it has intervened more than 60 times during the WikiLeaks founder’s jousting with Sweden, it has completely disassociated itself from the whole affair. He certainly didn’t go run to Australia House for protection.
The Hard Word lauded the work of the anti-establishment Assange and completely agreed when the 41-year-old was awarded in 2011, among others, the “most outstanding contribution to journalism” by the Walkley Foundation for releasing classified American diplomatic cables.
Assange’s concerns over being extradited to Sweden stem from a fear of subsequently being handed over to the Americans, where he could face life in prison or the death penalty for his role in WikiLeaks. With the dust and hyperbole settling on the Embassy Cables release though, the idea that he could be successfully prosecuted in the US appears ever more flimsy. The US government should give assurances to do nothing of the sort, as Assange demanded, but strictly speaking that is not Sweden’s (nor the UK’s) concern.
On the rape charges, Julian Assange is only subject to the same legal processes as the rest of us would be. Maybe it’s time for him to face his accusers in Sweden, prove his innocence and force the US to show us all its hand on where it really stands on free speech and freedom.
IMAGE: A poster of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is held by anti-war activist Ciaron O’Reilly during a vigil in support of Assange, outside Anzac Square, near the offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Brisbane, Wednesday, June. 20, 2012. (AAP Image/John Pryke)