STOCKHOLM | Friday, May 19th, marked the end of 7 years of legal limbo for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, when the Swedish prosecutorial authority, somewhat surprisingly, dropped the idea of charging him for sexual misconduct (“less serious rape”).
I was present at the rushed press conference in Stockholm, where the prosecutor, Marianny Ny, tried to explain her actions (maybe more accurately: her inaction) to the press.
Minutes before the press conference, the prosecution issued a statement, informing the world, that no case would be brought against Julian Assange:
Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding the suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange. The motive is that there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.
This means, that as of Friday, the international arrest order issued for Julian Assange, has been lifted.
UK police though, rushed to clarify in their own press release, that they are still planning to arrest him, should they get the opportunity, due to his “failure to appear in court”/skipping bail.
The press conference consisted of Marianne Ny reading the already issued press release out loud, followed by questions from the media. The entire session was video-streamed, and can be viewed here:
I somehow managed to get the first question, before Expressen, Associated Press and the other sycophants could begin their sucking up to power, and I chose to focus on one of the things that the prosecution has said repeatedly, that quite simply isn’t true:
Peter Kofod: “I don’t quite understand the bit about you saying Julian Assange having to be present in Sweden in order to be able to move the case forward, because my understanding of Swedish law is, that you can — and sometimes do — charge people in their absense. Isn’t that correct?
It’s one thing to waste the past 7 years by saying that they WANT Julian Assange to come to Sweden, and to be so stubborn about it, that it now has led to the prosecution being forced to drop the entire matter. It’s something else entirely, to claim that’s it’s IMPOSSIBLE for them, to proceed with the case, unless he’s already here in Sweden,
Sweden often charges suspects in their absense, in lesser as well as serious cases. Here, for instance, is a case from March 2016, where Sweden charged a Russian national in his absence for attempted murder.
Actually the whole process has been turned upside down: Marianne Ny wants to extradite Julian Assange, BEFORE she charges him with a crime. Under normal circumstances, that’s unthinkable. States don’t want to extradite people, who haven’t even been charged (but who are just “wanted for questioning”).
The reason this is even an issue in this case, is a legal loophole concerning the legislation regarding European Arrest Warrants. The language doesn’t specifically demand that the person wanted for arrest has to be formally charged with a criminal offence — something Julian Assange has never been.
So why doesn’t the legislation demand this, you wonder?
Well, my guess would be, that nobody ever imagined that a European judge could dream issuing an arrest order, against an uncharged person.
But could a Swedish judge dream of doing just that?
There’s no way to tell, really, because the arrest order for Julian Assange, was NOT issued by a judge, but by prosecutor Marianne Ny, herself (!).
Subsequently, when UK politicians figured out that European Arrest Orders could be (ab)used in this way, to extradite people who aren’t charged with a crime, even without the participation of a judge, they changed the law, making it impossible for this to happen again.
Back to Marianne Ny:
Couldn’t she just bring charges against Assage, instead of saying she can’t move the case forward?
She elegantly doesn’t answer my question, by instead claiming that, in order to bring charges against Julian Assange, she would have to obtain his consent (which is wrong; if the last 50 years of Swedish law is anything to go by — for instance the example with the Russian national above) — and she adds: that in any case, she would need the government of Ecuador (Assange is living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London) to help her, formally serve him with the charges.
So, has the Swedish prosecutor asked Ecuador to help with this? ‘
No. She’s speaking “hypothetically”.
If she had tried, she’d have known, that Ecuador from the very beginning (back in 2012), has stated that they’d cooperate 100 % with the Swedish judicial system.
Here, for instance, is the foreign minister of Ecuador, commenting on the decision not to move the case forward:
It simply isn’t true, what Marianne Ny says. The reason the case is now closed may very well be, that they “can’t move it forward”. But if so, it’s not because of neither Assange nor Ecuador, but because of lack of proof that a crime has been committed (which of course DON’T has anything to do with the question of how Assange has behaved).
Here is what the chairman of the Swedish Bar Association had to say, after the decision:
I managed to ask yet another question, in which I tried to make her answer why the time frame has been so ridiculous — they’ve spent 7 years, deciding NOT to bring charges.
Why hasn’t she questioned Assange long ago, thus making it possible to decide EITHER to bring charges or — as they just did — drop the matter.
Peter Kofod: So, I was reading the statement of agreed facts from the United Kingdom High Court, which is all the things that you — the prosecution as well as Assange’s defense lawyers agrees on.
And one of these points is, alternatives to going to Sweden are perfectly legal and appropriate; like phone interviews or being questioned in an foreign embassy and so on. And given that you’ve questioned 44 people in London, while Assange has been in London: witnesses, suspects in criminal investigations, shouldn’t you have taken this step 5 years ago, before the statute of limitations lapsed on 3 out of 4 counts, before the United Nations ruled that his detention is arbitrary?
Marianne Ny again evaded; saying something about it being “not optimal” to question Julian Assange abroad — and that they really only did this, is less important cases (which is a lie; “Or Murder!!” I shouted from my seat, without much success).
But that’s all history, I guess. They DID end up interviewing Julian Assange abroad, on the embassy in London, in November 2016. After this, the prosecution says, they were able to take some “investigative steps forward”, which is always good, I guess.
And now they closing down the whole thing.
In reality, it’s hard to see how Sweden could’ve fucked this case up any more, even if they’d have wanted to.
So, in summary: An important victory for Assange; case closed, and if a person is innocent until proven guilty, then he’s innocent in the eyes of the law (still tainted perhaps, because of the monumental fuck-up on behalf of the prosecution).
But the case HAS never been heard — and he’s still not free.
Trump’s newly appointed DOJ has stated that it’s now “a priority” to lock Assange and other WikiLeaks staff up, while his CIA-boss, Mike Pompeo has classified WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”, who so far has been able to hide behind freedom of the press and freedom of speech — but “not any more”.
The Swedish case — no matter what really happened between Assange and the 2 women, back in 2010, has always mostly been a distraction. The reel case, the one that’s extremely dangerous to press freedom and to whistleblowers, is the US War against WikiLeaks.
If nothing else, we’re one steep closer to the tackling this head on now..
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