The point about justice is that it should apply to people you don’t like as well as to those you do. Otherwise it’s not justice. I don’t think that, if I met him, I would like Julian Assange very much. (I may be wrong; I’d love to chat with him to see.) Part of that has to do with what I have described as his ‘caddish’ behaviour towards the women who fall for his (undoubted) charm. (That’s easy for me; being charmless, I’ve never been tempted in that way.) I’m also not at all convinced that all his Wikileaks revelations were politically justified, in liberal terms, or that governments should not be allowed some secrecy to pursue delicate negotiations.
None of this, however, bears on the huge doubts I have about the rectitude of his attempted extradition from Britain to Sweden three years ago, on charges that may be flimsy, and in circumstances that might enable his re-extradition to America on espionage charges. I’ve written about that many times over the past three years: see, for example, my lrb.blogs for (11 Nov ’14, 21 May ’13, 20 Aug ’12, 6 May ’11, 11 Feb ’11), and the piece referenced below (5 Feb.). I should add that many Swedes of my acquaintance share these doubts.
I despair that most of the reports I’ve read on the recent UN declaration in his favour have entirely neglected the facts of the case, building their arguments on the prejudice against him; the idea – which is false – that he is trying to avoid Swedish justice (coupled with the assumption that Swedish justice must be perfect in this area, as most other things Swedish are); and pressure from feminists whose understandable desire to punish sexist bastards seems to conflict, here, with the basic legal requirement of presumption of innocence. There’s also the argument, of course, that ‘well, he’s not as badly off as some’, which of course is true, but also irrelevant, and could be used to excuse any injustice.
I’m also beginning to think like a ‘conspiracy theorist’ in this matter. That scares me. I’ve always resisted this, despite having written books on Plots and Paranoia (the title of one of them). In connection with the Assange case, however, the signs of collusion between Swedish, Britain and American governments are too blatant to be ignored entirely.
Another thing that makes me suspicious is the censorship that seems to be going on in the printed press or on ‘respectable’ websites of pieces supportive of Assange. Craig Murray’s site below – he used to be an ambassador – gives examples of this. I think I’ve experienced it myself: when last year I tried to post a comment on a Guardian website about the EAW which dared to mention Assange (politely and non-contentiously) I was immediately ‘pre-moderated’ – i.e. banned; a ban that lasted 6 months until I pointed out to the Guardian that I wrote reviews for them. And I’ve noticed since that when the Guardian reports on the Assange case, it never even permits comments ‘below the line’. Can you blame me for harbouring suspicions of the ‘powers that be’?
Let me add one more thought that I’ve had about this. Marianne Ny’s refusal to examine Assange outside Sweden has, of course, been the main reason for the stand-off that is keeping him in the Ecuadorian embassy. She’s still making things difficult for him in this regard. Does she – it occurred to me – really want to bring him to trial in Sweden? If he were to stand trial there, it would – insofar as it was conducted in public (and there are doubts about that) – be highly publicised internationally; and if the case against Assange were as weak as some of us think it may be, it would throw her, and possibly the whole Swedish judicial system, in a very poor light. She, and it, might be laughed out of court. That’s a huge risk, for the dignity of Sweden. Better to let him stew.
For those still to be shaken out of their ignorance, or prejudice, I recommend (again) my previous posts on this, in various places; and the following (if the link works): https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/02/why-the-assange-allegation-is-a-stitch-up/
(Feb 12: There’s an updated version of this piece in the current Lobster magazine: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-assange-again.pdf.)