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article imageOp-Ed: Assange's balcony speech, and one humble opinion

By Joseph Power     Aug 22, 2012 in Politics
London - Julian Assange made a rather pontifical speech on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy this past weekend, with the current Wikileaks farce at a stalemate.
British police patiently lay in wait in the streets outside, waiting for their first chance to pounce on the 41-year old Australian who skipped bail six weeks ago, fleeing into the embassy seeking political asylum.
Given the rather terrible history of free speech rights in Ecuador, it’s somewhat ironic that Assange praised the country for granting him safety from the claws of the British police. Grating on the ears of this author, is the constant loose babble articulated by Assange’s supporters, who delve into the swamp of conspiracy theory, claiming that his extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and molestation are nothing more than a secret ploy by the United States to in turn, extradite him to the US on charges of espionage.
Assange, during his address, pleaded to Barack Obama to “stop the witch-hunt” against Wikileaks. One rather obvious objection to this would be that witches simply do not exist. Wikileaks obtained secret US documents by illegal means. Somebody stole, and in turn leaked them. The United States has every right to investigate the matter. However, there is absolutely zero evidence, beyond speculation, that the United States is even planning an extradition.
The allegations against Assange were investigated in three separate courts, in England and Wales. All found the case valid. When Assange supporters cry “but Assange has committed no crime!” it’s a rhetorical sleight of hand, when If by ‘committed no crime’, one really means ‘formally indicted’. Assange stands accused of serious sexual misconduct, that has been the victim of its own ‘witchhunt’, with the fifth-hand accounts of Assange’s defence lawyers becoming gospel truth.
Assange's High Court judgement is easily avaliable online, and at para.154 the High Court concludes:
"Although it is clear a decision has not been taken to charge him, that is because, under Swedish procedure, that decision is taken at a late stage with the trial following quickly thereafter. In England and Wales, a decision to charge is taken at a very early stage; there can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced. If the commencement of criminal proceedings were to be viewed as dependent on whether a person had been charged, it would be to look at Swedish procedure through the narrowest of common law eyes. Looking at it through cosmopolitan eyes on this basis, criminal proceedings have commenced against Mr Assange."
Now, onto Assange’s fear of extradition to the US. There has been no indication that Mr Assange fears for his life or freedom in the United Kingdom. Rather, he fears that once he has faced his charges in Sweden, he will be immediately whisked off to the United States. In fact, the extradition of Assange from Sweden will actually become more difficult, explains New Statesman writer David Allen Green.
This is similarly untrue. Any extradition from Sweden to the United States would actually be more difficult. This is because it would require the consent of both Sweden and the United Kingdom.
One can add that there is no evidence whatsoever that the United Kingdom would not swiftly comply with any extradition request from the United States; quite the reverse. Ask Gary McKinnon, or Richard O'Dwyer, or the NatWest Three. In reality, the best opportunity for the United States for Assange to be extradited is whilst he is in the United Kingdom.
Mr Green goes on to state, that despite the repeated calls for Sweden to promise that there be no extradition to the United States after facing his charges, he smashes another myth:
It would not be legally possible for Swedish government to give any guarantee about a future extradition, and nor would it have any binding effect on the Swedish legal system in the event of a future extradition request.
By asking for this 'guarantee', Assange is asking the impossible, as he probably knows. Under international law, all extradition requests have to be dealt with on their merits and in accordance with the applicable law; and any final word on an extradition would (quite properly) be with an independent Swedish court, and not the government giving the purported 'guarantee'.
Also Sweden (like the United Kingdom) is bound by EU and ECHR law not to extradite in circumstances where there is any risk of the death penalty or torture. There would be no extradition to the United States in such circumstances.
Assange moon-bats fail to recognize the fact that Assange is fully entitled to cite fear of persecution in Swedish courts, or the European Union court of Human Rights, should such an extradition request actually arise.
A stranger to the Assange-Wikileaks affair would have absolutely no idea that Assange had skipped bail, in order to avoid allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden (though one should avoid euphemisms, and simply call out his charge of rape).
The United Kingdom have been more than willing to ship criminals off to the United States previously. Apologists for Assange need to look at the cold hard facts, and stop resorting to half-truths and conspiracy theory, and actually assess the situation at hand. Ecuador is not the heartland of free speech, it’s the last resort of a desperate man on the run from charges, both real and imaginary. Be serious.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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