Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Assange case is not black-and-white

On this blog, I have been a constant defender and supporter of Wikileaks. The information that they publish is not only valuable in and of itself, but also in holding states to account. But this doesn't mean founder Julian Assange should be viewed uncritically - especially when charged with rape.

The allegations have been hanging over Assange for some months. Essentially, it is charged that in August this year that he had raped a woman in Enköping on the weekend of 14 August after a seminar, and two days later had sexually harassed a second woman he had been staying with in Stockholm. Charges were filed at the start of the month, and a British arrest warrant issued soon after.

Currently, he is in custody awaiting possible extradition to Sweden, and has been refused bail.

There are, of course, some irregularities with this case. Firstly, the fact that the arrest comes in the wake of the Diplomatic Cables leak is seen by many as suggesting a political motive. There is no absolute proof, though there is some reasonable doubt given the shit-storm that his site has provoked.

Then there is the fact that the charge against him is based on the Swedish legal definition of rape, which is different in substantial ways from legal definitions elsewhere. Thus, it seems that the accusations centre around the suggestion that Assange "did not comply with her appeals to stop when (the condom) was no longer in use." Not that this makes such a thing more acceptable, but it remains an important detail.

The fact that the complainant "has ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups" has also been mentioned. However, whilst this may be suggestive of political motive, it is still an ad hominem rather than significant proof of wrongdoing. It certainly doesn't vindicate Assange.

Likewise, reports that the complainant "apparently indulges in her favourite sport of male-bashing" is nothing but politically-expedient sexism. That it is now being done by the left, rather than the right, doesn't change this. Reports of "groupie-like behavior" are also abhorrent, and "work[ing] hard to bed Assange" does not remove the right to be "the first to complain to police" if something goes amiss. It is nothing but the "she was asking for it" argument, reworked.

I must emphasise that, on Assange's potential guilt, I reserve judgement. His accusers have the right to see their claims investigated. He has the right to a fair and open trial if matters go that far.

If there is genuinely political manipulation at work, then of course it should be exposed. But it should never involve such misogynistic tripe as has been displayed in this case. There is a difference between defending the integrity of an idea and demanding that the person behind it be beyond justice.