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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 August 2012

The Julian Assange case

Editorial comment from Offensiv, weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden)

The furore over the case of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, whose exposés of American foreign policy angered US imperialism, rumbles on. Internationally, the case centres around US imperialism's need to punish WikiLeaks and no doubt the Swedish state and government would happily assist the US in getting Assange extradited. However, the case is also about serious allegations of rape, which must be investigated.

Julian Assange was received as a hero when he came to Sweden, invited by the Christian organisation of Social Democrats in August 2010. Four months earlier, WikiLeaks released the video "Collateral Murder", showing US soldiers in a helicopter killing civilians in Iraq, including children. And in June 2010 came revelations about the US war in Afghanistan, published by WikiLeaks together with leading newspapers such as the New York Times and Le Monde.

Sweden

When Assange left Sweden on 27 September 2010, however, he was suspected of rape. First, he was arrested in absentia on 20 August though next day the arrest was lifted. However, on 1 September the investigation resumed.

In November, he was arrested in his absence and Interpol sought a warrant, for one case of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one case of duress. Weeks later, he reported to the police in London.

Then, a long process of extradition to Sweden began. The Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, requested his extradition. Assange fought this, fearing that the next step would be extradition to the US. In June 2012, Assange went into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and asked for asylum, which he was granted.

Julian Assange has every reason to fear US retaliation. Since May 2010, the US has detained Breanna (formerly known as Bradley) Manning, a 24 year old who worked in the military intelligence in Iraq and was pointed out as one of the main sources of WikiLeaks.

Manning could face life imprisonment, accused of "support for terrorists." Several leading right-wing US politicians said that Assange should be treated in the same way.

"In the US, the Justice Department is considering prosecuting the founder of WikiLeaks for espionage, and according to the British Independent, there have been unofficial talks between officials from the US and Sweden on the prospects for the extradition of Assange. This story is rejected, however, by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt," wrote the Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, in December 2010.

Criticism of US imperialism is also what unites those who provide support for Assange. Ecuador's President Rafael Correa's decision to grant Assange asylum has been supported by governments in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina. All South American governments condemned the possibility that Britain would plan an assault of Ecuador's embassy.

United States

Assange also turned directly to the United States in his ten-minute speech from the Ecuador Embassy balcony on 19 August. To audience applause, he requested that the FBI investigation and the witch-hunt against WikiLeaks cease.

But US imperialism's hunt for Assange does not necessarily mean he is innocent of the accusations by the two women in Sweden. "However, some of the activists associated with Occupy who have turned up outside the embassy have stressed their presence is about showing solidarity with WikiLeaks rather than necessarily endorsing Assange," the Guardian reported.

That the allegations made against Assange - intercourse with a sleeping woman and deliberately destroying a condom during intercourse - are classed as rape is used in debates to argue that Swedish legislation is "feminist" or exaggerated. But Sweden does not distinguish itself by its harshness against rapists.

This tougher law is a result of women's struggles, which in turn were supported by the labour movement and the rest of society. This means that "no means no." Forced sex is a crime, which even those who believe that Assange is innocent should realise is progress.

Despite the tougher laws, very few accused men are convicted or even investigated. About 200 men are convicted of rape annually in Sweden compared to over 6,000 filings. Even in cases which are prosecuted, a third are acquitted. In this context, to speak of "state feminism", as some Assange supporters do, is absurd.

The Swedish prosecution acted very clumsily and slowly in 2010. When the investigation was resumed, they had three weeks to interview Assange before he left the country, which they allowed him to do. Since then, prosecutors refused to interrogate Assange in London, which would be a natural step for those who want to pursue the investigation.

Promises

Similarly, the Swedish government refused to promise that Assange would not be extradited to the United States. Such a promise would, according to Kristinn Hrafnsson from WikiLeaks in a comment after Assange's speech, be "a way to break the current impasse."

Socialists stand for the rape allegations being investigated without the threat of deportation to the United States or other repressive measures against WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks' revelations about Iraq and Afghanistan played an important positive role in the struggle against war and imperialism. In Sweden, it confirmed Foreign Minister Carl Bildt's warmongering role, as well as the government's pressure on Iraq to stop refugees coming to Sweden.

Socialists stand for Breanna Manning's release and defend the democratic rights of WikiLeaks and its sources. A democratic socialist mass movement must stand up for free speech, against violence against women, against war and imperialism.

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In The Socialist 29 August 2012:


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