Assange Conundrum 78

Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, has just renewed her call for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for espionage. This a week after US puppet and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr claimed there was “not the remotest evidence” that Assange might be prosecuted in the US. As a grand jury has already been convened in the US, Carr’s statement, justifying the Australian government’s refusal to intervene to help its citizen, is a transparent lie.

Feinstein herself has made plain where her loyalties lie. As she said during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed over 500 children:

“…we stand in support and solidarity with the state of Israel. The United States and Israel have been staunch allies now for over 50 years. We share common values: freedom, democracy, massacre of innocent civilians from the air, the rule of law. And time after time we have rallied to each other’s side in defense of our values. “

I interpolated a phrase there to make her meaning more specific. Can you spot it?

If Assange is extradited to Sweden he faces a rape trial in which all evidence is heard in secret. There is no jury, and the case is decided by a judge and two lay assessors. The lay assessors normally get the job as members of the major political parties by whom they are nominated. (See page 255 of this New Zealand law commission report).

It is therefore entirely understandable, given the long history of sexual slurs by western governments against dissidents and whistleblowers of which I was myself so spectacularly a victim, that Assange has felt pressured into fleeing to the Embassy of Ecuador to escape the tentacles of what looks like a conspiracy of neo-con politicians in international power against him.

However understandable, I fear it is a mistaken move.

However well-disposed, the Ecuadorean government had plenty of problems of its own without handling this one. While it does have a very good record of accepting refugees, its own internal liberties are less than well established. And there are – and I say this from certain knowledge – those within the CIA who are quite keen on having Assange in Ecuador where certain types of operation are easier than they are in Sweden.

There have been a number of joyous articles in the right wing media pointing out that Assange is now in effect stuck in the Ecuadorean Embassy. I am sorry to say they are right. I have direct personal experience as an Ambassador of trying to protect people’s human rights by having them on Embassy premises or in my flag car with me (see Murder in Samarkand). It is a very difficult area indeed.

There is no agreement in international law that being offered asylum in one country protects you from criminal prosecution in another country, and such law would in fact be highly undesirable. Otherwise tax havens could start offering political asylum and immunity from prosecution to the Bob Diamonds and Bernie Madoffs of this world – and believe me they would, like a shot.

The Ecuadorean Embassy is a flat. It is nonetheless Ecuadorean sovereign territory, which can only in logic extend to the floorplan of the flat itself. The other businesses or residences in the block are not operating under Ecuadorean jurisdiction. I am afraid it seems to me Assange is subject to arrest the minute he leaves the door of the flat and enters a shared corridor.

I would argue that once in the flag car of the Ambassador, if the Ambassador is also in the car, it would violate the Vienna Convention for the British authorities to detain the ambassador and open her vehicle to remove Assange. I succesfully took that line as British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, which would make it hard for the British government to argue otherwise. But the Ecuadorean Embassy is not a compound and I don’t see how you get Assange to the vehicle.

I might state that I would have played the whole affair differently. I would have voluntarily returned to Sweden and faced down the charges, insisting on making all the risible details of these plainly mocked up allegations fully public, publishing all the evidence on Wikileaks, even if it meant jail for contempt. The political motivation of the whole episode would have been immediately apparent and made extradition to the US very difficult when the whole Swedish pretext is so obviously fake.

But my analysis of the hidden motives and machinations of governments against Assange is no different to his and that of his close supporters. I would merely have adopted different tactics to combat the threats. There can be no higher principle of justice involved when a politically controlled justice system is trying to set you up on false charges. I accept his choice to avoid the snares rather than try to slash through them.

Flight was a legitimate choice for Assange in these circumstances. But I am afraid the direction of flight was mistaken.


For a stunning portrayal of the real evils of government, an exploration of the absolute depths of human behaviour, and of the extraordinary pressures on dissidents from western governments of exactly the kind which bear down now on Assange, book now, immediately, to see One Turbulent Ambassador on NOW at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

All tickets are absolutely free.

Robin Soans’ (The Arab-Israeli Cookbook; Talking to Terrorists) new play is the most profoundly moving experience on the London stage this year, and the best free theatrical experience you will have in your life. The play is not by me or about me, but is about the things that I witnessed and things that were done to me. Be warned, the play is very emotionally wrenching and contains vivid scenes of rape and torture. It is squarely based on actual events.

A reader of this blog named Ken saw the opening last night and posted this comment:

This evening I went to see:
One Turbulent Ambassador.
Go and See It!
Powerful images from strong dialogues. A few surprises along the way.
On the train home I chatted to an Australian – he’d been to Wimbledon. He asked where I’d been. I explained the play and that part of your life. He seemed hooked, wrote the details down, said he would see it.
It’s so good I think I’ll go again too.

You have just one week left to go and see it. Did I mention that it’s free?

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

78 thoughts on “Assange Conundrum

1 2 3
  • Roger

    It’s curious that it took Assange so long to decide he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Sweden. Up to now he’s been saying he feared he would be extradited to the USA.
    Incidentally, what makes him so sure he wouldn’t be extradited from the UK? Why didn’t he seek asylum in Belarus, which he was extolling as a bastion of democracy recently?

  • Tony

    But Sweden is even more obsequious to the US than Britain. He fears, quite understandably, the certain extradition to the US which going to Sweden would bring. It’s not the trumped up charges he fears.

  • Roger

    Would going to Sweden bring “certain extradition” to the USA? Unlike the UK-USA extradition treaty the USA would have to produce evidence that it intended to use against Assange and would have to bring charges that could not be described as “political”, which would almost certainly exclude the Security Act, which it is usually claimed Assange should be charged under.

  • Eddie-G

    It certainly seems to me that Assange’s lawyers were caught off guard by his asylum claim. But this much is clear, that what is on the face of it is a highly risky move was motivated by a very deep fear. And that has to be the fear of extradition to the US, about which his legal representatives have no doubt either.

  • nuzothie

    I’d had the same thoughts as Graig; possibly, you have a different perspective on things when you run a very real risk of being extradited to the USA to be (remotely) possibly murdered by a madman excited by public figures who openly call for assassination (how that can not yield reactions is quite beyond me), and most of all quite certainly tortured (“submitted to unusual and degrading treatment amounting to torture” is the polite formulation in fashion these days, it seems).

    In any case, if all avenues of political asylium and Human Rights fail, Assange will find himself is pretty much this very situation where he goes to the Swedish court and is in a position to publish everything he can. So his present tactics do not prevent him from defaulting on Craig’s should the need arise.

  • Clanger

    Roger, no doubt you are referring to the smear job from the New Statesman. Those on the left often find themselves cornered into sounding like they are defending brutal dictatorships/theocracys etc.. The Western elite try to package all conflict as simple good vs. evil with the USA and NATO buddies in the axis of good and any regime that doesn’t cooperate with the neocon agenda as part of the axis of evil. I have never been to Belarus so can’t comment on what life there is like, but I suspect the reality is far more complex than the MSM would have us believe. Governments that defy US bullying will often have to resort to brutal, extreme measures to survive; it’s not pretty but that is reality. Our own government is hardly whiter than white as I’m sure you are aware reading these pages. Before condemning the acts of people like Lukashenko, it might be worth considering what has lead him into such a state of paranoia. Are the opposition truly democratic or are they a bunch of equally corrupt gangsters out to rob the country. See Libya as an example.

  • Mary

    ….massacre of innocent civilians from the air… Can I claim the prize?
    Gabriele Zamparini on the Medialens message board has kept an amazingly long log of all the tweets and insults that have been hurled at Julian Assange. Quite disgraceful. These servants of the Evil Empires have NO humanity.
    Miriam Cotton of Mediabite has also compiled this. She is a fine Irishwoman.
    PS Craig I think you have your Feinsteins and your Finkelsteins muddled up!

  • Jon

    @Roger – not at all surprised that he’s tried to use his available legal options before flight. It’s reasonable to think his team have believed that extradition is more likely from Sweden – smaller countries are easier to bully – and that Assange’s latest is something of a panicked move. Perhaps also they genuinely believed the UK High Court would grant the stay they were requesting.
    I’m wondering whether, in light of the loss of sympathy from the MSM media, he is now rather stuck – if he now has a change of heart, and decided to go to Sweden to talk to the police – that extradition would now be even more likely because of his temporary flight status.
    Anyway, if anyone has not yet seen it, Medialens’ piece on the reverse ferret of the liberal media is very good. Suzanne Moore’s poisonous writing, well exposed by the two Davids, is enough to quit buying any newspaper she works for.

  • guest

    The whole Julian Assange case is just the start of what is going to happen to those who stand upto the evil being perpetrated on humanity, if people can’t read the writing on the wall by now its going to be too late to stop it all too soon!, it may already be too late!!!. Craig, I fear you will be on their list of matters pending, revenge is a specialty with them. Sorry, I had to tell you that, but there again I think you already have that in the forefront of your thoughts, you know how they work, when you think those people can’t do anything more evil…well, they do!!!.

  • nevermind

    Am I right in the assumption that an ambassadorial car, if inbvolved in an accident that disables it, has to comply with police and emergency services?

    Assange could be freed, there is a way, but it would take hundreds of supporters and the cooperation of the Ecuadorian ambassador, drivers, cars and people willing to risk their freedom for a wee while.

    Love to see the play, will it be avaialble afterwards on youtube?

    Have you got any plans for a summer gathering, to end on a positive note?
    My regards to Nadira and the family.

  • craig Post author


    The upside of being plagued with feelings of worthlessness is that you don’t have any problem with being expendable!

  • Komodo

    Glad to see informed opinion agrees (again) with my own private (pure) speculation re. Assange’s current status. However, if he were to be taken off the roof in a helicopter, rapidly transferred to a waiting Ecuadorean plane on a disused runway out of town and thence to Ecuador, international aviation law might be on his side. Though, as you say, Ecuador would not be the ideal destination. Argentina’s pretty keen on scoring points against the UK right now….wonder if that would have been better?

  • James Cranch

    Thanks, Craig, for the nice post.

    One quibble: “Feinstein” in paragraph 1 appears to become “Finkelstein” in paragraph 2.

  • a non-emu

    Given that JA has not been accused of committing an offence in the UK (other than failing to report at the police station) it shouldn’t be too difficult for a deal to be made allowing him to leave for Ecuador if they grant him asylum. Such things happen.

  • nevermind

    Not bad Komodo, I also agree that the destination of Ecuador is not really essential, Argentina was good enough for Nazi refugees to hide for decades, whether it would like to accomodate Assange is to be seen.
    The getaway does need some serious coordination and a car is very unsafe as it will have London traffic to cope with and could easily be ram raided for its contents, what do the Americans care much about Ecuadar, they’d just ram it and be done with.

  • Herbie

    If the US were to have requested Assange’s extradition from Britain it would necessarily have been on political charges.
    Generally political charges are a no no when it comes to extradition.
    Is this the case in Sweden?
    In any event, Assange would have argued that the US is a state which tortures and murders political enemies. They’re quite open about this, and of course many US politicians have already said as much.
    In these circumstances he just can’t be extradited from Britain. That fact alone would be quite embarrassing.
    In Sweden however, they do things in secret. Karl Rove is there to make sure the job is done with ease.
    Neither the US nor Britain want a British public debate on the nature of the US fascist state, especially in English.
    Were such an argument presented in Sweden, at worst it would be covered in Swedish. The MSM could then provide cover by presenting their own spin in translation.
    All in all, a better solution.

  • Tom Welsh

    “If Assange is extradited to Sweden he faces a rape trial in which all evidence is heard in secret. There is no jury, and the case is decided by a judge and two lay assessors”.

    Hmmm. Remind me why Assange went to Sweden in the first place? Or why anyone would ever go there? Surely there are enough countries in the world where you can expect open trial by a jury, should you be accused of a crime, that no one would consider going to a place where those liberties do not exist.

  • Murder most fowl

    True (although not sure [from Nevermind] about the relevance) that Argentina accepted some Nazi activists after the war, although not as many as the USA (Operation paper-clip. However it also accepted more Jews seeking asylum before 1939 than any other country in the world, so its hospitality is obvious.

    At the very worst, Assange emerges from the Embassy and gets flown straight to Sweden. This is no different to what would have happened if he had never gone to the Embassy.

    Can someone explain why Sweden could not give an assurance that Assange would not be re-extradited to the US? We accept and assurance from Jordan that they will not torture an extraditee and demand one from the USA about prison conditions

  • Passerby

    …..massacre of innocent civilians from the air…..(have not seen, or read or heard of saw Mary’s post, I so declare sticking to the principles of when in Rome do as the liars do)!!!!!!!!!!!
    Good to see you back, never close the blog, this is the last country pub I like to call in for a pint sort of place, as you have seen some of us have been keeping the blog going come what may, in fact most of us.
    See yourself as the next Assange? Good luck
    Libor fiddled, stocks fiddled, the whole scam foisted as “capitalism” onto the illiterate punters whom en mass suffer from dyscalculia (thanx to the best mis-educations system money can buy), lies and even more lies all depend on the anonymity of the perpetrators, as in any criminal enterprise the opaqueness, and secrecy are mandated imperatives.

  • Murder most fowl

    And in passing. Jerry del Missier (ex-COO Barclays) was in fact one of the very few good guys in the city, worth three of Diamond and Goodwin combined)=.

  • writerman

    The way in which these corporate hacks; regardless of which faction of the ruling party they support or belong to, left, right, or middle;, have turned on Assange has been nothing short of disgusting. Their low, purile, sniggering, attempts at humour, make Bevis and Butthead seem like wits on par with Oscar Wilde in comparison.

    Their collective ignorance of the facts of the affair and how the Swedish system of justice functions in practice, are close to zero, yet this doesn’t stop them from having strong opnions, perhaps ignorance and strong opnions go together?

    That Assange hasn’t actually been charged with anything, there are only serious alligations, which somehow have morphed into ‘not charged, yet’, seems to have passed the hacks by, unoticed. That Assange hasn’t been charged with ‘attacking two women’ as the BBC stated, also passes unoticed. That the evidence is so weak against him that the Swedish prosecutor still hasn’t charged him with anything, after more than two years, passes without comment. That the two women involved, and one would assume they knew, haven’t actually alleged that Assanged raped them, or used violence, or force, and that the sex was consensual, is also appparently unimportant and ‘detail’ according to our leading journalists. How come?

    The answer is simple and outrageous. Assange is being railroaded on trumped-up charges of sexual assault, that don’t stand up to a moments scrutiny, for actions that aren’t considered ‘sex crimes’ anywhere else than in Sweden, a place where ‘gender politics’ and real politics mix all the time.

    Assange’s real ‘crime’ seen from the perspective of our leading journalists has little to do with the ridiculous alligations against him; which don’t come from the two women involved, but are sourced from the prosecutor, the women’s lawyer, and the Swedish media, all of which have their own agendas; Assange’s real ‘crime’ as revealed by the journalists own words, is his perceived ‘anti-Americanism’ and the threat Wikileaks poses to the role of the hacks in modern journalism. This is why they dislike him and Wikileaks so violently. They hate him both because of politics and economics.

  • Jon

    @Passerby – make sure you copy your text before submitting it to any blog (or any web form, come to think of it!). Although it looks like something has come up for you at 3:05 pm, sometimes things sit in spam moderation – they will be released if they do. Nothing in the queue at present.

  • writerman

    And, one has to fear for the state of Assange’s mind. Taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy was the action of a man who is at the end of his tether, a desparate man, virtually alone, and pursued by a vengeful empire which is determined to destroy him and Wikileaks, and set an example. Our crimes must remain hidden, so we can continue them unhindered.

    On returning to Sweden Assange would immediately be put in solitary confinement without bail. They don’t ‘do’ bail in Sweden. He could remain in solitary, with very little contact with the outside world for months, or, possibly over a year. Solitary is used in Scandinavian coutries as a way to ‘soften-up’ a prisoner, to get them to confess, or as a way to punish a prisoner before a trial where the evidence is so weak the state thinks one would go free. So Assange risks months in solitary while the state considers whether to charge him or not with any actually offence. Is his reluctance to return to Sweden under these conditions so difficult to comprehend?

    Yet the UK hacks don’t give a shit about any of this, they’ve already decided that he’s guilty of something, despite the lack of charges, despite the lack of any evidence, and despite the fact that the women don’t claim they were raped by him.

    What I worry about is Assange taking his own life rather than risk being imprisoned in the United States like Manning. Being imprisoned in a maximum security facility in the US is like being buried alive, and this could be for the rest of his life, decades behind bars for what crime exactly? For showing the world the true ghastly face of the empire. An empire that slaughters civilians in the hundreds of thousands. An empire that commits war-crimes with casual abandon. An empire that obeys no rules and has contempt for the rest of the world. Behind the smiling face of Obama there’s a hidden monster, monster with a maw that’s red with the blood of the innocent.

  • Passerby

    Thanks Jon it has been released and I shall take heed of you advice too.

  • Herbie

    This is quite a good article which further collates and analyses those anti-Assange hack tweets that someone on Medialens put together:
    Then there’s the subject of Blair’s return to British domestic politics. I do hope this does happen. I don’t imagine it’d be easy for him to find a safe seat these days, but all that’s necessary is that he be appointed to the Lords.
    I think we’ll all be jolly well pleased that a man of Blair’s ability is there to navigate our safe passage through the long years of war that are yet to come.
    What’s the point of all his experience, wealth and ability if we don’t use his skills. I’m sure he’s quite bored now sitting at home all day watching telly with Cheri. I mean, he’s not even 60 yet!
    Let’s not waste him. Use him, I say.

1 2 3

Comments are closed.