Samstag, 22. Februar 2020

Lies and conspiracy theories in support of Julian Assange

Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on tortures, is campaigning a lot in the last couple of months in favor of Julian Assange. For example see this long interview[1]. Without doubt, he is a respected man, and so his claims have some impact. But if you look a bit closer, he often tells plain falsehoods or wild conspiracy theories. And unfortunately, nobody in the mainstream media seems to fact-check. The only exception I discovered so far is this great piece[2] (in German). A very good read, especially on why the torture accusations are unsupported nonsense, and why Sweden and the UK just followed the rule of law.

The two women didn’t want to incriminate Assange?

Melzer even claims “S.W. never accused Julian Assange of rape”.

Let’s look at the facts.

One of the women is Anna Ardin. I can say her name, because she herself makes public statements about the case. In April 2019, she said the following on Twitter[3]:

“I would be very surprised & sad if Julian is handed over to the US. For me this was never about anything else than his misconduct against me/women and his refusal to take responsibility for this. Too bad my case could never be investigated properly, but it’s already been closed.”

The other woman, S.W., doesn’t seem to appear publicly, but through her lawyer, she struggled that the case against Assange was reopened after he was arrested in London[4].

Does this sound like the two women didn’t want the case investigated?

The Swedish authorities constructed a rape story?

Melzer claims that the two women didn’t want Assange to be investigated, but that the Swedish police changed their testimony so that a rape story could be constructed:

“The woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape.”

First, look at the point above: Even if the women didn’t want it from the beginning, it is very clear that they stand by their accusations, even until today.

Second, where is the proof, Nils? Your fluent Swedish?

A user on Twitter found the document Melzer likely refers to, and translated it with Google[5]. It sounds like the policewoman had some technical problems, couldn’t open the Word document and had to create a new one. I asked a native Swedish speaker, and he confirmed[6] that the translation was correct.

So no proof at all the police altered something. And why doesn’t Melzer seem to care about what the two women say on their own, why doesn’t he ask them whether they think their testimony was forged? It looks like he only listens to answers he likes.

A conspiracy?

The most ridiculous -- at least from my point of view -- of Melzer’s claims is that Sweden, UK, the U.S. and Ecuador conspired together against Assange. This is such unsupported nonsense, it is really hard to believe how serious people could possibly buy it. Really, three democracies and one banana republic conspired against Assange? And if Melzer would be honest, he had to add the two women to the list of conspirators, because how should the countries have known that the woman appeared at the police station?

Melzer says that the conspiracy is the only explanation that would make sense, but that’s simply not true. Here is how it could also have happened:

Both women had consensual sex with Assange. Both liked him, and both supported (and still do, I think) his political agenda. So it is very understandable that they struggled with themselves before going to the police or even file charges against him, and that maybe they initially even made contradictory statements. But after a bit time, after speaking with each other, the police, maybe friends and family, they understood that Assange not only treated them bad, but even committed crimes (don’t understand me wrong, I don’t consider this an established fact, whether it was rape or not is claim against claim).

Assange, on the other side, either wanted to hide from rape investigations, or really was paranoid enough to believe that Sweden conspired with ths U.S. in order to extradite him, and decides to escape to the Ecuadorian embassy. First he was welcomed there, but after an administration change they wanted to get rid of him. Banana republic.

Sweden just wanted to investigate the rape allegations, but stoped it after almost 10 years, because the limitation period was almost reached, and because the memories of alleged victims, Assange and witnesses were not very reliable any more after such a long time.

The UK simply had to penalize Assange for violations of bail conditions, and now have to decide over an extradition request from the U.S.

Why shouldn’t it have happened this way? This would be consistent with all known facts, and is much more plausible than Merlzer’s wild conspiracy theories.

Assange is indicted in the U.S. just for exposing war crimes?

This is another claim that simply isn’t true.

First, please read the indictment[7]. There are 18 charges, and 11 of them (charges number 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 18) are about helping Manning stealing top secret documents: "aided, abetted, counseled, induced, procured and willfully caused Manning". Assistance is a criminal offense in every country of earth, not only the U.S.

So if Assange not only got the files from Manning, but conspired with her, and if the U.S. prosecutors can prove it, then he committed a crime, and this has nothing to do with the freedom of the press. You may say -- and I agree -- that the evidence the U.S. provided so far is weak, but we don’t know what else they may have, and we should not forget that Chelsea Manning is currently jailed for contempt. Why does she refuse to testify? Frankly, the only explanation I can see is that she knows more than she confesses and that she doesn’t want to incriminate Assange.

But now to the other 7 charges, which are about publication. But here again the situation isn’t as clear as Melzer and other Assange supporters try to make us believe. It should be consensus that the press is allowed to publish top secret documents if their content is in the public interest (fun fact: up until about 5 years ago, this was not so clear in Germany, when prosecutors investigated two journalists for publishing such stuff; google “netzpolitik landesverrat” for details). Wikileaks’ publication of the “collateral murder” clearly falls in this category (btw, this doesn’t mean I agree with the claim the video proved war crimes, but this is beyond the scope of this post). However, Wikileaks did much more, they published thousands of top secret documents which had nothing to do with war crimes or other wrongdoings, which were clearly not in the public interest, and which Wikileaks obviously didn’t even read before publishing.

It is an open question in U.S. law (and most other countries as well) whether journalists have the right to publish secret documents that are clearly not in the public interest (btw, I have no clear position on how it should be). Wikileaks / Assange should have known that they entered a grey zone and he shouldn’t be surprised being indicted now. But this doesn’t mean he will be sentenced at the end of the day. Assange has enough means and supporters to go all the way up until the Supreme Court. If he will be really extradited.

1 Kommentar: