I haven’t weighed in on this Julian Assange debate but I have many questions on the matter and there aren’t too many answers out there. Facts are few and far between but conjecture is all around. The vast majority of people fall into one of two camps – either it is a giant conspiracy or he’s a rapist doing whatever he can to avoid facing imprisonment for his crimes.
As per usual I am not firmly in either camp. I do think that there are many eyebrow-raising decisions that Mr Assange has made and they are at best questionable and at worse devious. If we take it as gospel that he fled Sweden when he was notified that he was going to be charged with sex crimes then why did he flee to the UK? That seems like a pretty dumb decision considering we extradite pretty much anyone unless there is compelling evidence to do and at this point let me bring up the case of Lucy Wright.
Lucy Wright (Robertson at the time) was arrested carrying cocaine through Buenos Aires airport in 2007. She did the crime and has no qualms about admitting that although she doesn’t want to face time behind bars in Argentina and wants to serve her prison sentence (whatever it may be) in the UK. She was granted bail and according to her own story which was featured on last weeks Banged Up ABroad on National Geographic fled bail and swam the Iguazu river to make it into Brazil with no passport and managed to con the police, the British consulate and Brazilian border officials to get an emergency passport and fled back home to the UK. Upon her arrival she handed herself into authorities but with no international arrest warrant against her name she was told to go about her life.
Two years later she was arrested under an international arrest warrant and the Home Secretary Teresa May said she had no reason to intervene however upon appeal the high court quashed the previous rulings and denied the extradition request due to they feared her human rights would be infringed. The less than sanitary conditions in Argentine prisons and the fact that she would face up to two years in prison on remand before trial and then up to 16 years inside would not be right but that isn’t what stopped the extradition.
They said an expert called in her case had provided “powerful” evidence that, as a woman and a foreign prisoner, she would have to endure a lack of food and hygiene products, and would face humiliating strip-searches by prison staff as well as attacks from fellow inmates.
The judges said, “The uncontradicted evidence shows a disturbing pattern of cruel, inhuman treatment being suffered by female prisoners and especially foreign ones in Argentina.”
This is why they stopped the extradition. The Argentine government did not give reassurances or guarantees that Miss Wright would not face inhumane treatment as a foreign female prisoner. They said that if they tried again and gave these guarantees then they decision might be reversed but for now they were not prepared to send this young woman into these conditions.
As for Julian Assange the Swedish judicial system is not the same. Mr Assange does not face inhumane conditions at the hands of the Swedes. Now whilst I have deep questions about how the case was brought against him it has been and there is no reason why he shouldn’t face those charges. The fact that he doesn’t want to clear his name is worrying as I’m pretty sure any innocent accused rapist would want to clear his name as quickly and as publicly as possible.
He fears that Sweden will extradite him to the USA but Sweden and the UK show no differences in how they would react to an extradition request from the United States. Also as far as I’m aware both the UK and Sweden would refuse to extradite anyone who is charged with an offence with the death penalty as a potential punishment. As the US want Assange over treason then I can’t see how Sweden would extradite him.
He says everything is a conspiracy. Well maybe it is but the only facts we have now are that he has been charged with a crime and is refusing to face those charges. It would be the most keenly watched criminal trial in Swedish history and it would be scrutinised beyond belief so if it was a conspiracy then it would be unravelled quick sharpish. The Swedes aren’t some backwater country where a few dollars in someone’s back pocket will get them the verdict and/or sentence that they want (as a keen watched of Banged Up Aboard you do see this happen all the time). I trust the Swedes to be fair.
So the differences between Julian Assange and Lucy Wright are simple. One faces real human rights issues should they be extradited and one does not. Mr Assange has lost an awful lot of credibility as the months have gone on. Whether he did rape these two women I have no idea but he’s been charged and if he is innocent then he has to clear his name. A man accused of rape who doesn’t want to clear his name is a man hiding something. What that is I don’t know but he is certainly doing himself no favours and the good will ended a long long time ago when he decided to request asylum in a country with a pretty mediocre (at best) human rights record. It is like he is just desperate to escape justice at any cost.
To me that is deeply troubling.
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