News that a Swedish Prosecutor will now travel to London, to interview Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, has been greeted by many with widespread relief and much finger pointing as to why it has taken so long. The largely silent Swedish Prosecution Authority has been overwhelmed with a barrage of criticism from Team Assange despite Sweden winning seven court hearings to maintain the integrity of their European Arrest Warrant. But what really happened to find Julian Assange trapped in such a predicament?
Julian Assange's own reckless sexual behaviour in Sweden in 2010 led to two of the women he slept with filing police complaints as to his treatment of them. This is not in doubt as one of Assange's own lawyers said at his 2011 extradition hearing in the UK that he would not challenge that the Swedish women "found Mr Assange's sexual behaviour in these encounters disreputable, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing towards the boundaries of what they were comfortable with". No conspiracy. One of the women even took herself to hospital for a rape kit. By his own description Assange prescribes the term 'Chauvinist Pig' to himself yet he quickly dismissed the complaints as a feminist conspiracy. Sweden overnight became the 'Saudi Arabia of Feminism'. He'd fallen into a 'vipers nest'.
He was interviewed in Sweden by the police but failed to remember crucial details of the sexual encounter with the first woman. He couldn't remember who wanted to use a condom. The transcript reads like police trying to pull teeth from a man with a clenched jaw. Very little was revealed. The investigation continued while Assange disappeared within Sweden. Assange was no tourist as he had made formal application for residency in Sweden.
His Swedish lawyer repeatedly claimed he was unable to contact Julian to set a time for a second police interview, this time about the alleged rape. Making contact with a secretive Julian was not easy. Eventually a frustrated Prosecutor Ny did manage to directly arrange a specific interview time with his lawyer. Assange then left Sweden hours before the agreed interview time. His lawyer stated he had been unable to contact Julian. Assange would later claim he had waited 5 weeks in Sweden to be interviewed.
Outside of Sweden, Assange promised through his lawyer to return for an interview. The dates were never right. The Prosecutor felt somewhat secure as she knew that Assange had an advertised speaking commitment in Sweden in the coming weeks. He cancelled. He disappeared. His promise broken, Sweden eventually issued an Interpol red notice to locate him. Red is correct protocol with absconding sex offenders.
Assange popped up in London. In interview with the BBC he indicated the allegations were ridiculous and he was a busy man with Wikileaks. Sweden was unimpressed. An arrest warrant was issued in the UK. Bail was initially denied as Assange flippantly gave his bail address as a PO box in Melbourne. He was released ten days later on bail after he could at last give police a real address. A mansion called Ellingham Hall in the English countryside belonging to a friend. His choice. He was free on bail while he fought the Swedish extradition order with the only conditions a daily reporting to the police in the local village and a ten pm curfew. No house arrest.
During his time living at Ellingham Hall, he made many appearances in London. No restrictions were applied to his travel within the UK. His case went to court but he lost. Three times he lost despite Assange having access to some of the best lawyers in the UK. He produced no evidence or suggestion of a US plot at trial. His strategy was to attack the women's credibility and belittle the Swedish Prosecutor Ny personally. Despite no corroborating evidence, Ms Ny was described in court as a hardline, man-hating Feminist. This strategy failed.
Sweden charges at the end, not the beginning of any investigation. Once charged, defendants are normally arrested and jailed with their cases being put to a judge within 4 days. To charge Assange, he must be arrested. UK courts agreed that Assange was already the Swedish equivalent of charged but semantics around this have been endlessly exploited by Assange and his legal team.
Assange has now lost seven court hearings across two countries as he keeps trying to prove there is no case. The judges do not agree. After he lost his last appeal in the UK he jumped bail and holed up at the Ecuador Embassy under the protections of his new friend the Ecuadorian President Correa - they had become mates during an interview program for Russian TV. Ecuador's anti-USA posture makes Assange the perfect fit. He acts as a foil for the many critics of Correa's hardline crackdown on the free press. The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister described the Swedish assault allegations as 'hilarious'. For his part Assange ensures Wikileaks does not criticise Ecuador. Quid pro quo. As a man without a home who likes to spend 16 hours a day in front of the computer, the embassy must be no hardship. Free accommodation, free internet, free food, staff and celebrity visitors. A working business and social model.
Despite having previously praised Sweden as upholding the greatest Press freedoms in the world and personally applying for residency, Assange quickly switched the rhetoric to a flurry of hate messages. The safest country for Wikileaks to operate out of suddenly became the wicked sidekick of USA. As pressure to return grew, so too did Assange's conspiracy theories. He recruited multiple social media online identities to distribute his version of the facts until the truth has became indistinguishable from biased hypothesis. Conflating the largely respected work of Wikileaks with his own reckless sexual behaviour has become an impenetrable smokescreen.
Prosecutor Ny in Sweden has tried to stay out of the circus in the vain belief that the law will prevail but the pressure is on. As Prosecutor she can by law conduct the investigation in whatever way she deems fit. Questioning Assange a second time in London will achieve little as she must be able to arrest him at the conclusion if formal charges are laid. He refuses that and Ecuador protects him. Why would she risk ridicule in London on behalf of Sweden? No one could have predicted a man would be prepared to lock himself up for so long in so-called fear of hypothetical US charges. Five years on there are still no US charges against Assange or Wikileaks. This has become a face saving exercise of mammoth proportion. A whole country's legal credibility against one man who refuses to budge.
Now we have a game shift. Despite her clear misgivings, Prosecutor Ny has bowed to pressure to send someone to London. The need to break the impasse is great as the costs of clinging to due process stack up. Assange appears to have won that face-saving battle. The mountain will go to Mohammed. Having made such a big deal of his willingness to submit to questioning in London, Assange can't renege now. Trouble is the inevitability of formal charges will remove any pretence of cooperation.
Now supporters may get to glimpse the real Julian Assange.
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