WikiLeaks founder should answer rape claims. He did in 2016
London, UK – 17 April 2019
“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the US for publishing the truth about US war crimes, but the allegations that he raped two women in Sweden should be taken very seriously, fully investigated and, if the evidence is there, he should be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who has met Assange and has supported his work exposing US wrong-doing.
Peter Tatchell writes:
The UK government should give priority to any extradition request and legal case by the Swedish authorities. It should take precedence over the existing extradition request by the US administration. Sexual crimes against women must be punished and, equally, Assange should be given the opportunity to clear his name in court.
There has, however, been a huge amount of misinformation concerning the Swedish prosecution case. The facts are as follows:
Julian Assange has always maintained his innocence and from the outset offered to cooperate with the Swedish prosecutors.
In August 2010, when the rape claims were first made, Assange voluntarily remained in Sweden and presented himself to the police. After assessing the evidence, the chief prosecutor said “no crime” had been committed and that the file would be “closed.”
The case against Assange was reopened a month later by a different local prosecutor. From 8 to 14 September, Assange repeatedly offered to be questioned but no interview was arranged. The prosecutor advised Assange on 15 September that he was free to leave Sweden, which he did.
Two weeks later, on 30 September, the prosecutor announced that an arrest warrant had been issued to require Assange to present himself for questioning in Sweden. Assange offered to return to Sweden in the week commencing 11 October but was told those dates were not appropriate.
On 12 November 2010, Julian’s lawyer advised the prosecutor that either a new date should be set for the interview in Sweden or Assange was willing to be interviewed in London. The Swedish authorities had been to the UK many times to interview persons wanted in Sweden in connection with alleged crimes. The prosecutor declined this proposal and instead applied for a detention order and, subsequently, a European Arrest Warrant.
Worried that if he was taken to Sweden he could face extradition to the US to be prosecuted over his expose of American crimes, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June 2012. Assange then repeated his offer to be interviewed by the Swedish prosecutors. The prosecutor failed to take up his offer.
A freedom of information request has revealed that the UK government authorities actively discouraged the Swedish prosecutor from coming to London to interview Assange.
The needless years of obstruction and delay in interviewing Assange about the rape allegations can therefore be directly attributed to the Swedish and British authorities. They failed the women who made the sexual assault allegations.
In 2014, a Swedish court concurred. It found that the prosecutor’s unwillingness to interview Assange in the embassy had caused the investigation to grind to a halt and was not consistent with a diligent prosecutor.
Only after Assange had a lodged appeal against the detention order in the Swedish Supreme Court did the prosecutor finally agree in June 2015 to interview him in the London embassy of Ecuador.
This interview did not take place until 14 November 2016. Following this interview, no charges were laid against Assange by the prosecutors, even though not all the statute of limitations had expired and it was still possible at that time to prosecute him on some counts for alleged sexual crimes.
It is untrue and unfair to suggest that Assange failed to cooperate with the Swedish prosecutors. They failed to cooperate with him by not accepting his many offers, over a period of six years, to be interviewed. In doing so, they also let down the women who rightly wanted their day in court.
Having said all this, if the evidence against Assange exists and the women and Swedish authorities decide to proceed with extradition and prosecution, the UK authorities and Assange should comply. A court case is the right and best way to test the allegations and give Assange an opportunity to clear his name.”
On the question of Julian Assange being extradited to the US, Peter Tatchell added:
The bid to extradite Assange to the US over his revelations of US war crimes, cover-ups and corruption is an attack on the right to publish the truth. WikiLeaks and Assange are online publishers. The US charges against Assange are an assault on publishing freedom and freedom of expression. Why is he being pursued by the US authorities and not the Guardian and New York Times, which published the same revelations of US malpractice?
Assange published evidence of American war crimes. He’s a hero, not a criminal.
It is outrageous that the British government is doing Donald Trump’s dirty work by agreeing to arrest Assange following a US extradition request. His extradition to the US is not in the public interest.
Although the current US charges suggest that Assange will face a maximum of five years in prison, it is very likely that once he is in the US he will face much more serious additional charges that could see him jailed for 30 or more years. Previously, key Trump officials and supporters in Congress have demanded that he be locked up for decades and even face the death penalty,” said Mr Tatchell.