I thought it would be helpful to provide a commentary on today’s New Statesman article by John Pilger on Julian Assange.
“Guardians of women’s rights” in the British liberal press have rushed to condemn the WikiLeaks founder.
In fact, they have not. Feminist and non-feminist writers have instead condemned the downplaying and denials of the sex crime allegations by supporters of Assange.
In fact, at every turn in his dealings with our justice system, his basic human rights have been breached.
Julian Assange has now had two bail hearings in open court, at both of which he was represented by leading solicitors and barristers of his choice. At the second bail hearing he was granted – not denied - bail, although with conditions. This decision to give bail is now being appealed and so there will be a further hearing tomorrow.
It seems the lesson must be learned all over again as a group of media feminists joins the assault on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the "Wikiblokesphere", as Libby Brooks abuses it in the Guardian. From the Times to the New Statesman, apparent feminist credence is given to the chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange in Sweden.
Mark Stephens, the lawyer for Julian Assange, has complained his client still does not know the evidence on which the prosecution is relying. It is thereby inexplicable how Mr Pilger is any position to regard the accusations as “chaotic, incompetent and contradictory”
On 9 December, the Guardian published a long, supine interview by Amelia Gentleman with Claes Borgström, the "highly respected Swedish lawyer". In fact, Borgström is foremost a politician, a powerful member of the Social Democratic Party. He intervened in the Assange case only when the senior prosecutor in Stockholm dismissed the "rape" allegation as based on "no evidence".
This is simply an ad hominem attack on Mr Borgström and carries no weight.
In Gentleman's Guardian article, an anonymous source whispers to us that Assange's "behaviour towards women . . . was going to get him into trouble". This smear was taken up by Brooks in the paper that same day. Ken Loach and I and others on "the left" are "shoulder to shoulder" with the misogynists and "conspiracy theorists".
This sequence of contentions is at best unpersuasive. For example, Brooks did not take up this smear. Of course, the reference to “misogynists” (plural) can only be taken to mean the supporters of Mr Assange.
The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange.
If this is indeed the case, then this is for the defence to rely on in the event any charges are brought. However, quoting a defence lawyer is of course not determinative of any allegation.
Following the "crime", one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange.
Placing the word crime in inverted commas is to pre-judge the case, but even Julian Assange and his lawyer say they do not know the prosecution evidence. Mr Pilger is thereby not in a position to dismiss the alleged offence so casually. If such a party took place, and what it proves, then that is for the criminal trial and not an extradition hearing
When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: "Yes, but they are not lawyers."
There is no direct evidence available to Mr Pilger as to whether the complainants have or have not denied rape. If the evidence of the complainants does not support any offence for which he is charged, then this would a matter for the criminal trial.
Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock". For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case.
It would appear that they should perhaps have asked Mr Pilger.
This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived - in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.
Yes, Mr Assange is fully entitled to have the case against him set out in a language he understands. However, as already mentioned, Julian Assange still does not have access to the evidence on which the prosecutor is relying.
Assange still has not been charged with anything.
No, as this is an arrest warrant.
He has never been a “fugitive”. He sought and got permission to leave Sweden, and the British police have known his whereabouts since his arrival in this country. This did not stop a London magistrate on 7 December ignoring seven sureties and sending him to solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison.
The test for bail is not sureties alone. And it is understood that Mr Assange himself asked to be placed in solitary confinement.
At every turn, Assange's basic human rights have been breached.
As noted above, there will be a third hearing in respect of bail tomorrow, in open court, where Mr Assange will have full legal representation.
The cowardly Australian government, which is legally obliged to support its citizen, has made a veiled threat to take away his passport.
In fact, the Australian High Commission in London is providing assistance to Mr Assange.
In her public remarks, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, has shamefully torn up the presumption of innocence that underpins Australian law. The Australian minister for foreign affairs ought to have called in both the Swedish and the US ambassadors to warn them against any abuse of human rights against Assange, such as the crime of incitement to murder.
The ease with which Mr Pilger makes these serious accusations of criminal activity against others contrasts with the ease with which accusations of criminal activity are dismissed when they happen to be against Mr Assange.
In contrast, vast numbers of decent people all over the world have rallied to Assange's support: people who are neither misogynists nor "internet attack dogs", to quote Libby Brooks, and who support a very different set of values from those espoused by Charles Reich. They include many distinguished feminists, such as Naomi Klein, who wrote: "Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!"
As with Mr Pilger, one presumes that Ms Klein has had no access to any evidence against Mr Assange.
To hell with journalistic inquiry. Ignorance and prejudice rule.
[*] Correction made, as pointed out that Borgström not prosecutor in UK sense in comments below.
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