I posted about the Julian Assange case in 2010, but things have moved on a bit since then, so it might be time for a quick update.
There has been a fair bit of coverage which suggests that he might well be a bit of a wally at times. He has fallen out with his lawyers and a number of his colleagues at Wikileaks, but these things are not criminal offences. He has for a while faced a request for extradition from the UK to Sweden to answer charges about his conduct in the bedroom.
The story so far
Lest you have been in a coma for the last year or so, I can briefly recap out the basic facts.
In August 2010, Julian Assange, an Australian leaky geek, was in Stockholm, having been invited to talk about his work with Wikileaks, which had been busy publishing on the internet things that various governments would rather keep secret. He accepted an invitation to stay at the apartment of Miss Anna Ardin, who had organised the event, and during the night of 13/14th August they went to bed together, had sex and then went to sleep.
The next day, Miss Ardin sent messages to her friends via Facebook saying what a great time she was having with Julian.
Three days later, a Miss Sofia Wilen got herself invited to tag along with Julian after a public talk.
They got talking, and she bought Julian a train ticket to Enköping, some 50 miles out of town, where she had a flat. Julian accepted her invitation to Enköping, and thence to her bed. It seemed that Miss Wilen may have been a shade more attractive as a bedroom partner than Miss Ardin, because they had sex not only that night, but also in the morning as she was waking up.
So far so good, some would say. Not if you disapprove of one-night stands obviously. But the women in question were happy, at that stage. According to Assange’s lawyers: “The exact content of Wilen’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilen’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.”
But all that dramatically changed when the two women spoke on the telephone and compared notes. Ugh ugh! Miss Ardin was not a happy bunny. She had friends in the police, and persuaded them to take action. The next most senior cop said. “Don’t be silly; there is no offence here”. A more senior cop said, “Let’s have him”. Views differ about whether this was or was not the result of US political pressure – they really hate him for spilling US covert beans.
The Swedish prosecutor then issued a European Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange’s arrest and extradition (he was in the UK by the time the women decided that perhaps they were not happy after all). Over the last 15 months, Julian Assange has been trying without success – so far – to get the arrest warrant overturned in the English courts.
In the meantime, Wikileaks has been winning plaudits all over the world for its work. Thus, it won The Economist‘s New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards and Amnesty International‘s UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites “that could totally change the news”, and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award and was named the Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information Commissioner has stated that “WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen” ( I have taken this summary from Wikipedia; I think there are other awards as well).
The High Court Decision
Assange lost his appeal to the High Court (Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority  EWHC 2849 (Admin) (02 November 2011)), but he has now got leave to take the case to the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court. Beforte turning to that, it is worth looking at what the case looked like in the High Court.
There were four charges set out
1. Unlawful coercion – On 13-14 August 2010, in the home of the injured party Anna Ardin in Stockholm, Assange, by using violence, forced the injured party to endure his restricting her freedom of movement. The violence consisted in a firm hold of the injured party’s arms and a forceful spreading of her legs whilst lying on top of her and with his body weight preventing her from moving or shifting.
Now that, if you thing about it, is really nothing more that a charge of having sex in the missionary position. Which is not really a crime of itself. A bit boring, maybe. Over time, a sexual partner may well feel that something a bit more racy is called for. But not a crime. Julian Assange is no Goliath: if Ms Ardin had wanted a lover who did not “restrict her freedom of movement” during coitus, she would have had to seduce a midget. Or insist on staying on top. Even that would not really have addressed the “spreading of her legs” point.
2.Sexual molestation – On 13-14 August 2010, in the home of the injured party Anna Ardin in Stockholm, Assange deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity. Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, consummated unprotected sexual intercourse with her without her knowledge.
Two parts to this: neither of them stack up. As to the first, how on earth can anyone ever have sex with anyone else without “violating her sexual integrity”? Is that not really the whole point of having sex at all? Until she discovering that Assange was also “violating the sexual integrity” of someone else, Anna Ardin was happily boasting about it to her friends.
As to the second part, lots of us express wishes to our sexual partners about what we would like. They range from “For heaven’s sake, can’t you even pretend that you are enjoying this?” through “Hurry up, I’ve got tonight’s soufflé in the oven” to “Wash your hands, dearie, if you’re going to do that”. Those wishes do not always come true, and their non-fulfuillment is not rape.
3.Sexual molestation – On 18 August 2010 or on any of the days before or after that date, in the home of the injured party Anna Ardin in Stockholm, Assange deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity i.e. lying next to her and pressing his naked, erect penis to her body.
This was after Ms Ardin had found out about Ms Wilen. In the premises, this behaviour might be regarded as a bit on the hopeful side. But given that just 3 nights earlier, Ms Ardin had been happy to be bonk away, one can see why Assange might have thought that he was still in with a chance.
4.Rape – On 17 August 2010, in the home of the injured party Sofia Wilen in Enköping, Assange deliberately consummated sexual intercourse with her by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state.
It is an aggravating circumstance that Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, still consummated unprotected sexual intercourse with her. The sexual act was designed to violate the injured party’s sexual integrity.” (para 3)
This is probably the silliest charge of all. Ms Wilen had got Julian Assange to take the train home with her, got him into bed, and had sex with him before they fell asleep. How can it possibly be an offence (aggravated or not) for Julian Assange, presumably waking up the next morning with an erection, to have resumed matters by nuzzling his way back inside her as she was waking up? My guess is that, if this is a crime, it is a crime that the great majority of heterosexual men in the world are guilty of.
But bizarrely, the High Court described these allegations as ones of “serious sexual offences”. That is palpable claptrap. If the law supposes that these are serious offences, then the law is, to borrow a phrase from Mr Bumble, a ass. A serious sexual crime is breaking into a house at night or jumping out from behind a bush and raping a stranger at knife point. Or sexually assaulting a young child. Or beating someone up prior to sex to enhance some morbid sexual gratification. Or turning consensual sex into a non-consensual gang-bang. Slipping quietly anew into your lover as dawn breaks is not any offence, let alone a serious offence, particularly if your lover later that day announces to the world how content she is with how things went.
Perhaps the judges were anxious to be seen to be supportive of the European regime. Sir John Thomas is a former President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary and Justice Ouseley is a former Judge at the European Court of Justice. I am not of course suggesting any bias, but since the European Arrest Warrant is so much a part of the European experiment (now under so much strain because of the finaincial woes caused by what might be most kindly be called “creative accounting” from certain European countries when applying to join the Euro) it might have been more appropriate if the judges hearing the case had been chosen from less obviously pro-European quarters.
The two women
Of the two women, Ms Ardin maintains by far the higher profile. Curiously, she posts a series of references about herself on her website at http://www.ardin.se/. These include:
“Anna is an exceptional political operative … always on the lookout for new opportunities to present policy and recruit volunteers, and never afraid to break new ground if a mutually rewarding project can be found”
August 18, 2009
Ola J Hedin, Head of Accounts, Equmenia
“You never need to manage Anna, she is good at her job and she do come up with good ideas and she can follow through very well. Anna is easy to connect to which makes her accessible for going through current projects that Anna is working with. Anna puts her energy in her projects but she also knows when to take a break. Anna has a lot of energy and will and is a good co-worker. With Anna around you’ll have a good time at work.”
June 2, 2009
Hanna Victoria Mörck, Vice President 07/08, Uppsala Student Union
“She truly is a rock to lean on.”
February 4, 2008
Marta Axner, chairman of the election committee, Sveriges förenade studentkårer
“Anna is an energetic doer who in several different projects we have been on together manages to enthuse and engage people, maximize output – often with great press coverage”
July 30, 2007
Kajsa Hallberg Adu, coworker at Gotlands Nation and other positions
“Anna took on the job as Press and PR manager with great energy”
July 22, 2002
Anders Landberg, Pavilion Director, ZERI Pavilion at the World EXPO2000
“If one ever wishes to work with a fine communicator, an enthusiastic collaborator and an outstanding motivator, Anna Ardin is the person for your team. Anna is enthusiastic and dedicated, motivating others and clear in her message. It is impossible not to enjoy working with her. Her top qualities are: Great Results, Personable, Creative”
November 16, 2000
Gunter Pauli, Founder / Director at ZERI Foundation
Sofia Wilen has been keeping her head down rather more.
I am fully conscious that some might say that it is unfair to mention the role of these women, or indeed their names, at all. In the proceedings, they are referred to by their initials only, which is pretty pointless since their identity has been plastered all over the internet from the outset. In most cases, the identity of women who are victims of rape should indeed be kept out of the public domain. The prospect of misogynistic men going “Whooooa!” at the details of a genuine rape is deeply unwelcome. But in this case, it was the women themselves who went to the tabloid press with a view of damaging Julian Assange, their case is without merit and it is hard not to conclude that it is Julian Assange who is the victim here, not the women.
The case is worrying not least because of the potential it carries for the persecution of the gay and lesbian community who travel overseas. If a merely philandering heterosexual man can be extradited in these circumstances, imagine how easy it would be for gays and lesbians to be extradited to countries who are less tolerant in these matters than the UK, and who regard buggery and cunnilingus as abominations. As I have said before, I am all in favour of letting consenting adults do whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and the Assange affair represents a real and unwelcome intrusion into that principle.
The Supreme Court has now decided to hear an appeal – this should be heard in February.