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Julian Assange is a political prisoner

Obama justice
Fri Dec 10 2010, 18:05

"I DO NOT THINK there is reason to suspect that he committed rape," Sweden's chief prosecutor Eva Finn stated on 21 August this year and yet, four months on, Julian Assange, sits in a UK jail awaiting an extradition hearing.

This August statement and subsequent statements by Sweden's public prosecutor and the timing of other governments' actions are countering an information revolution. As in counter-revolutionaries fighting the revolutionaries.

While the technology revolution that is IT is how we got here, with 250,000 cables being taken from a US government network, the reaction is more like something medieval, as opposed to justice.

For all the furore of website hosting and who allows it and who doesn't and who is prepared to act as a financial institution for Wikileaks and who isn't, what is likely to become the defining aspect of this situation, is not 21st century technology but how a human being is treated by those who are supposed to act within the letter of the law.

Barrister Carl Gardner has written in his head of legal blog that he expects Assange to be extradited to Sweden. He points out that the extradition process is simply about asking whether the individual to be extradited will get a fair trial at their destination. Gardner concludes that is a slam dunk with Sweden.

In reference to the conspiracy theories about Sweden seeking revenge on behalf of the nations embarrassed by the cable leaks, Gardner says that the judge will decide "if extradition is really about punishing him for his political views, or if they might prejudice his trial".

This is going to be difficult to prove, but as perception is everything, in the coming weeks the beliefs of many are more likely to be shaped by the story of how Sweden's authorities brought this situation to the point where there is a need for an extradition hearing.

The defence's case for the extradition hearing is bound to touch upon the events leading up to this. The defence is going to want to bring to people's attention the question of whether extradition is really about a fair trial.

A quick glance at the events of late August gives a good indication that this case has been handled badly from the start and that there can be little confidence in the Swedish authorities.

In the third week of August, Swedish tabloid Expressen published the fact that Sweden's public prosecutor was investigating Assange. Giving Assange's name to the media was in breach of the prosecutor's office's own rules. That week, on Friday 20 August, an arrest warrant was issued for Assange, but then it was withdrawn on the Saturday.

On the Saturday, 21 August, the Swedish chief prosecutor Eva Finn made her statement saying she did not think Assange could be accused of rape. Then on Sunday 22 August, Finn put out a question and answer statement in which she stated, "She had received information on the matter and felt that he could not be accused of rape."

On Monday 23 August, a timeline was published on the prosecutor's website that stated that Finn had started her investigation and already concluded that the rape charge would not stick.

What happened to change the situation a week later was that a different chief prosecutor, the office's director Marianne Nye, was put in charge and she decided to resume the investigation into the sex crime allegations. Ny put out a statement on 1 September saying, "We have reviewed the matter and I believe that in the first part [there] is reason to believe that an offense subject to public prosecution has been committed."

So one has to wonder what happened over the ten days from when Finn said that she did not think Assange could be accused of rape and Ny's decision that the situation had changed?

Ny continued her investigation and every few days the prosecutor's office put out a statement saying that the investigation was ongoing but that Ny could not say when a decision would be taken on whether the investigation would stop or progress further.

On 18 November Ny finally put out a statement saying that Assange must be questioned. However, according to Assange's lawyer, on an edition of the BBC Newsnight programme earlier this month, his client had been trying to answer the prosecutor's questions since August.

On 25 November media reports started circulating that Wikileaks vast horde of cables was going to be leaked. On the 29 November the cables were released and then on 1 December a European arrest warrant was issued by Sweden for Assange.

The judge that determines whether Assange is extradited or not might not care about this timing because his judgement criteria won't take it into account, but the media and everyone looking on can only draw the worst possible conclusion: Assange is being set up and he is already a political prisoner. µ


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