A Stockholm city court upheld a detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Wednesday, rejecting a challenge mounted by Assange’s legal team. Judge Lena Egelin deliberated for barely an hour before turning down the legal challenge.
“The court believes there is probable cause for the crimes of which he is accused,” Egelin said. Assange’s lawyers have already announced that they will appeal the decision.
June 19 marked two years since Assange was forced to take refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid transfer to Sweden followed by extradition to the US to face espionage charges punishable by life in prison or even death.
The detention order upheld by Judge Egelin stems from trumped-up sexual assault allegations relating to two women with whom Assange stayed in August of 2010.
Lawyers for Assange argued that Swedish prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence that their client committed any form of sexual assault to demand that he return to Sweden. According to one of Assange’s lawyers, Swedish police reports show that one of the accusers later said she was “railroaded” by the authorities into making the sexual assault allegations. Documents filed by the lawyers also asserted that text messages sent by one of the accusers indicated her opposition to the filing of an arrest warrant.
“The message strongly suggests that there is no basis for the arrest,” the lawyers wrote.
A substantial body of evidence supports the position of the Assange defense team. The women in question consented to sex with Assange on several occasions and had repeated encounters even after the incidents that form the basis of the rape charges.
As documented in a program produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Sex, Lies and Julian Assange,” Anna Ardin, one of the women, allowed Assange to stay at her residence in Sweden, having consensual sex with him and hosting him for an additional five days after the alleged rape took place.
Ardin insisted on multiple occasions that Assange remain at the apartment, bragged to a friend about her “wild weekend” with Assange, and attended a dinner party with her supposed rapist two days after the incident, where she tweeted, “Sitting outdoors at 02:00 and hardly freezing with the world’s coolest, smartest people! It’s amazing!”
After Ardin exchanged emails with another women who was involved with Assange, Sofia Wilen, the two went to a Stockholm police station to raise the possibility of forcing Assange to undergo a test for sexually transmitted diseases. The two women did not make any rape allegations at the time, and Swedish authorities determined during an initial investigation that there was no “reason to suspect that he has committed rape.”
Nonetheless, the incident was seized upon as a pretext to draw up an arrest warrant against Assange, whose exposure of US war crimes had made him a top target for retribution and destruction in the eyes of Washington.
Assange, who has categorically denied the rape claims from the outset, has not actually been charged with any crime. Instead, Swedish authorities say they simply want to question him about the incidents. As his legal team noted, however, Assange could easily be questioned by Swedish authorities from his current location (and he has offered as much), if mere questioning were really the purpose of the detention order.
“The FBI has traveled to Sweden for interrogations, so why can’t Swedish prosecutors go to the UK to hear Assange,” said attorney Per Samuelsson during the hearing.
In reality, the purpose of the warrant is to force Assange to return to Sweden, from where he can be transferred to the US.
The British government responded to Ecuador’s grant of asylum to Assange in 2012 by threatening to raid the Ecuadorian embassy. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague declared, “The United Kingdom does not recognize the principle of diplomatic asylum.”
The Ecuadorian embassy has since been surrounded by British police 24 hours a day, at a cost of more than 6 million pounds.
Assange’s US attorney, Michael Ratner, said Wednesday, “Britain may already have papers that allow them to arrest Julian the moment he steps out of the embassy.”
The US government and political establishment have made Assange the target of slanders and vilification, with Vice President Joseph Biden denouncing him as a “high-tech terrorist” and US military documents referring to him as “the enemy.” Calls for Assange to be “hunted down” and even killed without trial have been made by figures within the US political and media establishment.
Once in American hands, Assange would face treatment similar to that meted out to Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, the army private responsible for transferring classified military documents to WikiLeaks. Manning is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence after being convicted last year under the Espionage Act. Before being tried, Manning was held for months in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia, where he was subjected to inhuman conditions amounting to torture.
The rape accusations against Assange are part of an effort to silence him, muzzle WikiLeaks, and intimidate all opposition to the criminal operations of US imperialism around the world. The same methods have been employed against NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who was forced to seek political asylum in Russia to escape being seized by US authorities and either railroaded to prison, executed or assassinated.
Under the leadership of Assange and with Manning’s crucial assistance, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of military logs and diplomatic cables that exposed the war crimes and secret political machinations of the US government.
The Iraq and Afghan war logs published by WikiLeaks provided extensive documentation of killings of civilians and other human rights abuses by the US and its allies. Among the material published by Assange was the “collateral murder” video, showing a US Apache helicopter opening fire on a Reuters reporting team and Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
The US government undoubtedly applied heavy pressure behind the scenes to have the arrest warrant upheld in court on Wednesday.
Rape accusations are increasingly being used to set up individuals seen as impeding US policy objectives, domestic and foreign, and more generally as a battering ram against democratic rights. Defenders of Assange have been slandered by the corporate media as well as various pseudo-left organizations as “rape apologists,” making a mockery of the democratic principle of presumption of innocence. In Britain, the National Union of Students imposed a ban on speech in defense of Assange, saying it could not provide a “platform to speakers who are rape deniers or apologists, or support events where such individuals speak.”
The Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee for the Fourth International have unswervingly defended Assange and opposed the imperialist witch-hunt against him.
In a resolution from January 2013, “Defend Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,” the Socialist Equality Party of the United Kingdom wrote: “Assange and WikiLeaks are the victims of an international conspiracy in which the British government is playing a leading role. Its aim is to intimidate and silence all those who seek to counter the wall of official lies used to conceal or justify war crimes and conspiracies against the peoples of the world.”
“Assange is the victim of a transparent frame-up, conceived by the Swedish authorities in concert with Washington,” the SEP wrote.