Tag Archives: Sweden

Don’t let facts get in the way of hate…

21 Jun

In December 2010 when the WikiLeaks cable dump hit the headlines, Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared: “I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website – it’s a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do.”

A couple of days later, Ms Gillard was at a loss to explain her inflammatory comments.

“The foundation stone of it is an illegal act,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

But the “foundation stone” was the leaking of the documents to the website, not the publishing of the cables.

“It would not happen, information would not be on WikiLeaks, if there had not been an illegal act undertaken,” Ms Gillard said.

Mr Assange’s lawyers have said they are considering defamation action against Ms Gillard after she accused the whistleblower of “illegal” conduct over the leak of US documents.

Thus our Prime Minister launched a campaign of misinformation about both Wikileaks and Assange, based solely on her personal opinion and clearly with little if any regard to her legal training.

The government then attempted to find legal cause to withdraw Assange’s Australian passport, in spite of the fact that he had broken no Australian laws.

Hardly surprising then, that Assange and his team of lawyers have come to believe he’s been abandoned by his government. While it may be true that Assange has received whatever consular support is due to him, Prime Minister Gillard had Assange hung, drawn and quartered from the get go, and she has never retracted her accusations and her condemnation.

If we follow Ms Gillard’s logic, then the newspapers who published the leaked cables they obtained from Assange, newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, The New York Times et al, are also acting irresponsibly and illegally because ““It would not happen, information would not be on WikiLeaks [or in the SMH, the Oz, the NYT, the Guardian et al] if there had not been an illegal act undertaken.” 

At this point I quote Anna Funder, winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary award:  I have spent my professional life studying totalitarian regimes and the brave people who speak out against them. And the first thing that someone with dictatorial inclinations does is to silence the writers and the journalists.

 

 

This is a link to an account by The Guardian of the events in Sweden that have led to Assange being accused of sexual misconduct. As you can see, the circumstances as described are unsavoury, though they would not all necessarily be considered sexual offences in Australia. They are also entirely a matter of she said/he said.

I have no idea of their veracity and I believe Assange, for his own sake, ought to have the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.  As well, the complainants are entitled to have their allegations addressed. It is puzzling that Swedish prosecutors are delaying the resolution of the women’s complaints by demanding, against, apparently, their own Supreme Court decision on interviews (see below) that Assange return to the country, rather than conduct a video link interview with him.

Bjorn Hurtig, Assange’s early Swedish counsel, makes these observations in his witness statement:

I also think it unreasonable that in a case of this kind, where extensive mutual assistance between the UK and Sweden would readily permit a video-link interview, for the prosecution to be so absolutely insistent that Mr Assange return (and at his own expense) to face questions that could easily be put over the video-link.

[Assange has many times offered to do this, and offered to engage in interviews with Swedish officials in person in the UK. The Swedish authorities have consistently refused these offers, demanding extradition instead. Assange continues to offer to answer the allegations via video link from the Embassy of Ecuador.]

I note that at least one of the complainants have been interviewed by telephone and the insistence that Mr Assange come back to Sweden merely for an interview is, therefore, unreasonable and contrary to the decision of our Supreme Court (NJA 2007, p. 337).

The problem for Assange with returning to Sweden is explained here. Briefly:

Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the WikiLeaks founder in the US, said Assange and his legal team considered it highly likely that he would face an onward extradition to the US if he were sent to Sweden.

The concrete reality [is] that he was facing a political prosecution in the US, he was facing the death penalty or certainly life in jail. Faced with that, he had extremely limited choices.

The US empanelled a secret grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange in May 2011, but has not issued any requests for his extradition to the UK or Sweden. However, Ratner said both he and Assange believed it was “more likely than not” that a sealed indictment had been drawn up.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, Sweden has form. In 2001 Sweden was involved in the illegal US rendition of  two asylum seekers suspected of terrorism from Stockholm to Cairo. This involvement violated the global ban on torture. Both asylum seekers were tortured when they arrived in Egypt, despite assurances given to Swedish diplomats.

The UN Committee Against Torture concluded that Sweden violated the Convention against Torture by illegally expelling him [Al Zari] to Egypt, and stated that “procurement of diplomatic assurances [from Egypt], which, moreover, provided no mechanism for their enforcement, did not suffice to protect against this manifest risk.”

The US has imprisoned Private Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks cables source, in a manner that has been described by Glenn Greenwald as “conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.”

One need not be a conspiracy theorist to see where this is headed. The bizarre refusal by Swedish authorities to question Assange by video link in an interview which is designed to establish whether or not there are grounds for bringing charges against him. The oft -forgotten fact that Assange has already been questioned on these matters while in Sweden, the allegations were dismissed, and he was allowed to leave the country.

And on the matter of these allegations it’s worth reading this brief interview with Oscar Swartz, author of A Brief History of Swedish Sex: How the Nation that Gave Us Free Love Redefined Rape and Declared War on Julian Assange.  Swatrz claims that  in Sweden: “Sex is being increasingly used to control communications – and as a political weapon,” and says his book shows “how Sweden descended from one of the western world’s most sexually liberated nations to its most repressive.”

The hatred expressed against Assange in Australia is frightening, and much of it seems to be based on personal antipathy. A great deal of it seems to originate with journalists and has from the start, as I wrote in these two articles in December 2010

It is even more frightening in the US where there have been calls for his assassination and demands that he be hunted down like bin Laden. Hatred such as this, and the unworthy example of presumption of guilt set by Prime Minister Gillard at the start of the story obscures the complexity of the narrative, and reduces it to a George W Bush story of good versus evil.

Personal opinions about Assange and his character ought not to blind anyone to the bigger picture unfolding here. There is something rotten in the manner in which these events have been and continue to be handled by the Australian, Swedish, and US governments. This should sound alarm bells for all of us, especially, one would think and hope, for journalists and writers whose responsibility it is to hold governments to account and protect us from dictators. WikiLeaks efforts to do this may have been clumsy, and at times carelessly cavalier. However, to my mind, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange & WikiLeaks have struck a blow for transparency in high places that in spite of claims to the contrary has struck nerves. For this they have my admiration and my ongoing concern for their welfare.


 

 


 

  

Assange in Sweden: the facts

31 May

The origins of Julian Assange’s current legal predicament are all too easily forgotten in the drama of his ongoing appeal against Sweden’s request that the UK extradite him to answer allegations of sexual misconduct in that country. However, in the opinion of this opinionista, they are crucial to the story, and what we might make of it. With the invaluable assistance of the BBC News Europe I’ve gone back to the beginning.

11 August 2010

Julian Assange arrives in Sweden on a speaking trip partly arranged by “Miss A”, a member of the Christian Association of Social Democrats. He has not met “Miss A” before but reports suggest they have arranged in advance that he can stay in her apartment while she is out of town for a few days.

14 August 2010

“Miss A” and Mr Assange attend a seminar by the Social Democrats’ Brotherhood Movement on “War and the role of media”, at which the Wikileaks founder is the key speaker. The two reportedly have sex that night.

17 August 2010

Mr Assange reportedly has sex with a woman he met at the seminar on 14 August, identified as “Miss W”.

Some time between 17 and 20 August, “Miss W” and “Miss A” – the woman who arranged his speaking trip – are in contact and apparently share with a journalist the concerns they have about aspects of their respective sexual encounters with Mr Assange.

18 August 2010

Mr Assange applies for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden. He hopes to create a base for Wikileaks there, because of the country’s laws protecting whistle-blowers.

20 August 2010

The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office issues an arrest warrant for Julian Assange. Karin Rosander, head of communications, says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation.

Both women reportedly say that what started as consensual sex became non-consensual.

Wikileaks quotes Mr Assange as saying the accusations are “without basis” and that their appearance “at this moment is deeply disturbing”. A later message on the Wikileaks Twitter feed says the group has been warned to expect “dirty tricks”.

21 August 2010

The arrest warrant is withdrawn. “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” says one of Stockholm’s chief prosecutors, Eva Finne.

Ms Rosander says the investigation into the molestation charge will continue but it is not a serious enough crime for an arrest warrant.

The lawyer for the two women, Claes Borgstrom, lodges an appeal to a special department in the public prosecutions office.

31 August 2010

Mr Assange is questioned by police for about an hour in Stockholm and formally told of the allegations against him, according to his lawyer at the time, Leif Silbersky. The activist denies the charges.

1 September 2010

Swedish Director of Prosecution Marianne Ny says she is reopening the rape investigation against Mr Assange, eleven days after a chief prosecutor announced the arrest warrant had been dropped. Ms Ny is also head of the department that oversees prosecution of sex crimes in particular.

“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” she says in a statement. “Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape.”

Ms Ny says the investigation into the molestation claim will also be extended. She tells AFP that overturning another prosecutor’s decision was “not an ordinary (procedure), but not so out of the ordinary either”.

18 October 2010

The Wikileaks founder is denied residency in Sweden. No reason is given, although an official on Sweden’s Migration Board tells the AFP news agency “he did not fulfil the requirements”.

18 November 2010

Stockholm District Court approves a request to detain Mr Assange for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. Sweden’s Director of Prosecution Marianne Ny says he has not been available for questioning.

Mr Assange’s British lawyer Mark Stephens says his client offered to be interviewed at the Swedish embassy in London or Scotland Yard or via video link. He accuses Ms Ny of “abusing her powers” in insisting that Mr Assange return to Sweden.

20 November 2010

Swedish police issue an international arrest warrant for Mr Assange via Interpol.

30 November 2010

Interpol issues a “red notice” for Mr Assange, asking people to contact police if they have any information about his whereabouts.

8 December 2010

The Wikileaks founder gives himself up to London police and is taken to an extradition hearing at a Westminster court. He is remanded in custody pending another hearing on 14 December.

Below are extracts from a witness statement written by Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, to his English counterpart, Mark Stephens on December 14, 2010. The pdf  can be accessed here: “downgraded to ’minor rape’

The case is one of the weakest cases I have ever seen in my professional career.

I have been refused access to the [full case file] orally, by Ms Ny, the Swedish Prosecutor. I know that the file contains extremely important exculpatory material, for example showing the fundamental inconsistencies in the complainants’ accounts of the key events.

In my opinion it is highly uncertain whether Mr Assange will be prosecuted at all, if extradited. If prosecuted, I consider it highly unlikely that he will be convicted.

I can confirm that I have been trying for many weeks to arrange for [Mr Assange] to be questioned by Ms Ny. All these attempts have been rebuffed by her. 

[Here follows a time line in which Mr Hurtig lists these attempts, and the excuses proffered by Ms Ny in refusal, including that she wanted a specific policeman to interview Assange, and he was not available.

On September 15 2010, Ms Nye confirmed to Mr Hurtig that Mr Assange was free to leave Sweden.]

Mr Hurtig continues: I also think it unreasonable that in a case of this kind, where extensive mutual assistance between the UK and Sweden would readily permit a video-link interview, for the prosecution to be so absolutely insistent that Mr Assange return (and at his own expense) to face questions that could easily be put over the video-link. [Assange has many times offered to do this, and offered to engage in interviews with Swedish officials in the UK. The Swedish authorities have consistently refused these offers, demanding extradition instead.]

I note that at least one of the complainants have been interviewed by telephone and the insistence that Mr Assange come back to Sweden merely for an interview is, therefore, unreasonable and contrary to the decision of our Supreme Court (NJA 2007, p. 337).

In his interview with human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson on the 7.30 Report yesterday, ABC TV’s Chris Uhlmann repeatedly referred to “the charges” against Assange. Mr Robertson corrected him, explaining that no charges have been laid against Assange. Allegations have been made. The Swedish authorities wish to extradite him for questioning about those allegations, having refused point-blank all other methods of interview.

After questioning Mr Assange, a decision will be made as to whether or not there are grounds for proceeding to charge him.

This process has already been completed once in Sweden by Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne, who decided the complaints were not sufficiently serious to issue an arrest warrant.

I must be alive ’cos my heart’s still beating.

29 Jan

Some time ago I was told that I have an indolent lymphoma, a death sentence, the specialist implied. But so is life, I said. The moment I’m born I’m old enough to die. David stared in dismay, as if he found my attitude cavalier. As if he feared I hadn’t been listening.

Dying Rose. By lovestruck via flickr

After receiving this dismal news, I left David’s office and went into the hospital bathroom, where I stood looking in the mirror for a long time, talking myself down from the ceiling and back into my body.

Who am I, I wondered as I stared at the pale woman in front of me.

Where am I going?

This sudden loss of self- recognition and purpose spooked me. Get a grip, I advised myself. I adjusted my old leather backpack on my shoulders. I washed my face, put some balm on my cracked lips, and left the hospital.

I was wearing jeans, brown boots, and a white shirt. An emerald green silk scarf, a gift from my youngest son whom we all call The Adventurer, was thrown carelessly around my neck. The scarf was stiff with tears and snot. I’d lost my bravado when David insisted on repeating his diagnosis. I’d held up both palms in protest, as if to keep him and all his words away from me, then I’d sobbed like a little girl who’d been unjustly punished, that it wasn’t fair.

David pushed the tissues across the desk. I’d used my scarf instead. It smelled, still, of my child.

This is how my life ended, and my dying began.

 

GET OFF MY CLOUD

After leaving the hospital I walked carefully down the familiar Newtown streets,leaking vital energies like a dying alien.

Dog in the forest

To return to the city after a long absence is to invite a serious assault on the senses. My senses were attuned to the ocean, and the secret scents of the rainforest.To the distant chug of trawlers as they crossed the bar at sunset, heading out for the night’s fishing.

My senses were used to the sounds of the whistling kites nesting at the bottom of the garden, and the sorrowful cries of the black-capped terns on the winter beach. Calmed by the blue heron absorbed in picking its delicate way across the mud flats in the wispy grey of an early morning river mist.

These senses were ill-prepared for traffic fumes and the roar of trucks; the hot sun glaring off shop windows, and dog shit in steaming piles around my feet. Neither had they managed well with the hospital’s chemical odours, and the sight, through an uncovered window, of a purple-gloved hand preparing a large syringe.

Purple. The colour of bishops, martyrs,and feminism, and now of cancer.

I was much taken with the name of my illness. It sounded refreshingly non-medical, even poetic. In.do.lent. Having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion. Sluggish, I read when I looked it up, the better to get a handle on the nature of the intruder.

I imagined the Indolent Lymphoma loafing on a Caribbean beach in a Panama hat, sunning itself under a striped umbrella, with a pink cocktail in its hand and a bag of weed in the pocket of its board shorts. I imagined myself confronting it.

‘We need to talk,’ I’d begin. ‘You’re on my cloud. You need to get off. Your attitude is costly for my life, and it cannot be allowed to continue.’

When I got up close I saw the creature had reptilian eyes and a self-satisfied leer. It winked at me and sucked on its roach. It didn’t speak, but roused itself enough to adjust the umbrella to keep the sun off its face. Then it idly threw the last of the roach into the warm turquoise sea. I lost my temper.

‘Well fuck you!’ I yelled.‘This isn’t fucking over yet, you know!’

 

STUFF FUCKING EVERYTHING

For a long time I slept with my teeth clenched, and woke each morning with an aching jaw. I couldn’t rouse myself enough to talk to anyone. I dreamed I was swimming in a turbulent sea and when I sank beneath the waves, my skirt became trapped under a rock.

I told no one I was ill. I thought that by telling someone I would make the diagnosis real. I lived alone then. My children were scattered across the world, and I was bereft of husbands and lovers. It was easy to keep a secret.

The dreams became worse. Apocalyptic, with tidal waves; angry wolves, soldiers, and smoking theatres of war littered with the limbless dead. I became afraid to fall sleep. I sat up at night watching infomercials on television and drinking red wine. In the early hours of the morning I’d swallow non-prescription calmatives. I didn’t consciously consider suicide, though I had it in mind if things became too bad, if pain became too bad further down the track.

A frightening aridity then took hold of me. My fevers were dry and wouldn’t break. My skin shrivelled. My eyes felt full of grit. My salivary glands reduced their output and my tongue, deprived of normal lubrication, became unwieldy and attached itself to the roof of my mouth as if both were lined with Velcro. I craved fluids and drank frequently and in large quantities. But the liquids brought no relief.

My spirit is burning itself out, I thought. I hadn’t anticipated this deathly dryness, this burning up, this slow progression towards grey ash.

Grim Reaper. By Brave Heart via flickr

‘I don’t know how long I’ve got,’ I realised in a rare moment of reflection and assessment. ‘What do I most want to do?’

I had infant grandchildren as yet unmet on the other side of the world. Why not take a trip and visit them? At this thought I was immediately afraid. Fear has always been my Achilles heel.

‘What if I get sick, really sick in a foreign country?’ I worried, as I walked the winter beach with my black and white dog.

‘But why does it matter where I get really sick?’ I argued back.’Does anywhere feel like home to me? Where do I belong, where have I ever belonged? Does it matter at all where I die?’

I considered these questions mostly in the abstract. As generalised philosophical meditations, as a scholar rather than a sufferer, and got nowhere.

There are times when knowledge fails to make the necessary journey from the head to the heart.

‘Stuff fucking everything,’ I thought one day, overwhelmed by circumstances of such magnitude that my mind rebelled against admitting them. And besides, I was beginning to bore myself. There is only so much time one can spend contemplating one’s death. It was now a time for action, not stasis.I also wanted very much to start smoking again after twenty-four years of abstinence, and that urge had to be resisted at all costs.

So, with what felt like my last reserves of self-care, I decided I would go to Mexico. My son the Chef lived on the Mexican Caribbean coast with the grandchildren I had yet to meet. What better journey could I make? And my best friend, Jane, agreed to join me there later in the year.

I stored my winter clothes in boxes. Where I was going it was always summer. I packed my bags and boarded the 10am Qantas flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, to Dallas, Forth Worth, and on to Cancún. A thrilling optimism took me over. No regrets! No tears goodbye! Hola! Buenos dias, senors y senoritas!

Flying into...

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