More on Wikileaks, Assange, and the UK Supreme Court ruling

The highest court in the UK ruled yesterday on a 5-2 majority that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on accusations of rape and sexual assault.

I spoke about the UK court ruling on The Madeleine Brand Show, and you can listen here.

Assange denies the charges. In a statement released 12 hours before the court's decision, Wikileaks said "The United States is seeking to charge Julian Assange - a journalist and publisher - with espionage," and "The US Grand Jury reportedly possesses a sealed indictment, which could be used to extradite Assange to the United States."

Assange and his supporters maintain that the Sweden case is effectively a ruse to bring him one step closer to the US, where a grand jury has reportedly convened to investigate a case against him. Details on those legal developments are murky (such is the way with secret grand juries), so it's hard to substantiate the direct claims made by Wikileaks. Worth noting: the UK also has extradition agreements with the US, and it's not clear that bringing him to Sweden would make things substantially easier for the US, if this truly were the plan.

Assange was arrested in the UK in December, 2010 over the Swedish sexual assault allegations, and out on bail under strict movement limitations for more than 500 days without having been charged with any crime. The UK supreme court is the third court to rule against him in efforts to avoid extradition. He's running out of legal options.

But this week's court's ruling doesn't mean he'll be extradited anywhere immediately. Assange's legal team has until June 13 to appeal the ruling with the UK court, and another possible option awaits: an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

At Salon, Wikileaks supporter Glenn Greenwald writes that "Whatever one’s discomfort with Assange’s supposed personal flaws, that must not deter anyone from standing against what would truly be an odious indictment for the publication by WikiLeaks of critical information in the public interest."

Of course, Assange hasn't been indicted with anything by the US yet. But a number of people associated with Wikileaks have been repeatedly harassed, detained, and "watched" by US agencies. The US has sought to access their electronic records through more visible routes, too: even Twitter.

And accused Wikileaks leak source Bradley Manning has been in prison for 2 years now, enduring cruel and unusual punishment for much of that time. He is currently on what amounts to a secret military trial.

For now, the only legal matter in motion for Assange involves sexual assault accusations by two young women who were, at one time, his fans. And even in that case, he has not yet been charged with a crime.


  1. It’s just nonsense to argue that extraditing Assange to Sweden is some sort of ruse to assist with extradition to the US.  As we’ve seen from cases like Gary McKinnon and more recently Christopher Tappin it is alarmingly easy to extradite people from the UK to the US.  Why wouldn’t the US just extradite him directly, presumably doing away with the need for a fresh round of court hearings in Sweden?  If Assange is being treated differently, it is because his supporters have provided him the funds to legally challenge his extradition to the highest court in the UK – most other people would have been extradited by now.

    1. Exactly, I’ve never understood this line of argument, which seems to completely denigrate the Swedish justice system as if Assange was being shipped off to some tin-pot dictatorship that would do whatever it wanted with him once he was within their clutches, rather than a signatory to the ECHR governed by the rule of law. 

      But you know, never let facts stand in the way of a conspiracy theory and all that. 

  2. At Salon, Wikileaks supporter Glenn Greenwald writes that “Whatever one’s discomfort with Assange’s supposed personal flaws, that must not deter anyone from standing against what would truly be an odious indictment for the publication by WikiLeaks of critical information in the public interest.” 

    Yeah but Assange wasn’t accused of having “personal flaws”, he was accused of sexual assault and rape. It’s in the public interest that the secret activities of governments are made public and it’s also in the public interest that accusations of sexual assault are treated seriously and not hand-waved away. You don’t have to pick one or the other, you can want transparency AND think that people who are accused of sexual assault should be arrested and sent to court.

    1. You should really get the facts straight: he’s not being arrested and sent to court. He’s being extradited so that he can answer questions about the alleged rape; Assange hasn’t been charged with anything. He’s been accused by the victim, but not by the courts.

      1. Actually you should read up a bit more and get your facts straight. The swedish legal system means that he can’t be charged with a crime before being questioned. So he isn’t being extradited so that he can just answer question, he is being extradited so that he can answer questions and be charged with the crime. The swedish system sees him as a suspect of the crime and wanted because of that. This is also the reason why the prosecutor  has refused to question him through a video link or phone, because that is only allowed, if you are going to charge someone with a crime, if there are no other options.

        1. You just confirmed that he hasn’t been charged with anything, so I don’t see the distinction you’re trying to make. The person I responded to was dead wrong. 

          1. He hasn’t actually been arrested or charged at least partly because he’s still in the UK.

            Hence, you know, the extradition proceedings.

            Which, even without inside knowledge of the Swedish justice system, would seem to be a fair indication that the matter is being taken quite seriously by the authorities, and that things have proceeded a formal legal step or two beyond simply “accusations by the victim.”

            And if and when Assange arrives in Sweden, I’m going to go out on a limb to guess that, even if he is not technically “under arrest”, that his status will also be a step or two below “free to go”.

            Besides, anrs did not actually say that Assange was already under arrest. He or she said that someone accused of a crime should face justice. Which certainly seems reasonable.

          2. The person you responded to maid the point that he was accused of a crime. Well that is obviously true.

            Whether or not he has been charged with a crime is sort of a pointless discussion because of different meanings of that concept between swedish and english or american legal system.
            In alla essence the swedish prosecutor believes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect Assange of being guilty of the crimes he is accused of. If I understand the UK or US system then in such a situation the prosecutor will charge the suspect with the crime, in Sweden this isn’t the case.

          1. Yes but that is not the same thing. That is a police intervju. The questioning that he is wanted for is not an ordinary questioning. It is a formal process which in sweden is called “serving the suspicion” which is sort of comparable to (but not similar to) reading your miranda rights. This is the stage when he is formally made  a the suspect of the crime and this is also the stage when he gets access to all evidence that the prosecutor has. He can not be charged with a crime before this happens.

    2.  am i the only person thinking honey trap? a man who’s website upsets a lot of really big people quickly and conveniently gets charged with alleged rape and sexual assualt.

      am i the only one???

    3.  While I agree sexual assault and rape should be taken more seriously than they often are, I wonder whether you could find me a single, solitary case of international extradition over a sexual assault charge. 

      Not saying Assange shouldn’t be extradited or charged.  Just saying something about the whole thing is really fishy.

  3. So many levels of weird. At minimum:

    1. Call me when there are actually trumped up espionage or terrorism charges in play, and maybe I’ll object to those. 

    Because at the moment, there aren’t. There are rape accusations, which should be taken seriously. (And while we’re being serious, the theory of how the one leads to the other involves underpants gnomes somehow, right?)

    2. If the ultimate concern is extradition to the US on trumped up charges, why would anyone think the UK is a better place to be than Sweden?

  4. This guy may not be “perfect” but i hope he does well because the precedent of the whole Wiki Leaks affair is the best type of protection against a world where elite does literally whatever they want unaccounted for. Same thing for Bradly Manning (spell?) guy!

    Strange enough, now in France there is an official Pirates-party that represent themselves for ellections. They say: “they call us ‘pirates’, well if you call normal free people that, then we make our own party that  cares for freedom of speech and expression and free internet…”.

  5.  Amazing that Assange hasn’t had something “happen” to him, as in mysteriously fallen ill, disappeared or even died.

    1. They don’t want to make a martyr, and they don’t want to have to deal with the insurance file that Wikileaks put out (’cause who knows what depraved and heinous  acts will be documented within).

      Smearing Assange is the smartest course of action at this point. (Sadly) It doesn’t matter if the allegations are true or not when it comes to reputation – and I’m sure that plenty of interests would love to be able to tack ‘convicted rapist’ as a title before every mention of Assange’s name.

      1. The insurance file that was unencrypted months ago because Wikileaks were stupid enough not to change the password on it regularly and allowed said password to be printed in a book? That insurance file? 

  6. Assange is not under “house arrest”. That line is being spun by Wikileaks. He’s remanded on bail.  Yes, the bail conditions are strict – because he’s got a habit of fleeing countries to avoid questioning.

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