Why Assange Sought Refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy

Metropolitan Police have entered the Ecuadorian embassy and detained Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He was said to have escaped into the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to be prosecuted for molestation. Is this true?

Julian Assange dragged from Ecuadorian embassy in London by Metropolitan Police

Assange cooperated with Swedish authorities in its investigation of molestation and was cleared and allowed to leave the country. The facts appear to show that Assange had consensual sex with two Swedish women who became jealous upon learning of the existence of the other. Later, Swedish authorities demanded Assange’s extradition from Sweden on Kafkaesque charges, the most serious being something called “minor rape” (three of the charges had run out on the basis of statute limitations).

Sweden has been the United States’ poodle for years following the assassination of US-hostile Olaf Palme in 1986 and the installment of the new US-friendly Ingvar Carlsson as prime minister, who reversed policy and allowed the US Navy to park its ships in its territorial waters in the Baltic Sea to surveil the Soviet Union. I was in Sweden in 1988 shortly after the controversy, seeing for myself the massive Soviet cargo ships in Goteborg harbor (their status as cargo ships questionable) and US navel vessels in Stockholm harbor, a source of great irritation to Swedes. Moreover, Swedish authorities adored Obama, who was eager to get his hands on Assange.

It was obvious to Assange and others based on timing and facts that the Swedish charges desired to obtain Assange from Great Britain for extradition to the United States. He thus entered the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid a hellish fate. Once the Ecuadorian government had been successfully bribed into expelling Assange from the embassy, Sweden resurrected their pursuit of Assange because they were unsure Great Britain would hand him over to Trump. Assange is a citizen of the Commonwealth, and the political mood has changed considerably in Great Britain.

Had the Swedish charges been real, and had Assange been tried and convicted, he would already be free. What he was being accused of would have brought a punishment far less impactful than the punishment he endured holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy. If you know what prisons are like in Sweden, then you know that it would have been a very similar experience for Assange but of shorter duration. If Assange could have been confident that he would not have been extradited to the US, then he would likely have jumped at the chance to be tried in Swedish courts. It is highly unlikely that, without the corrupting influence of politics, he would have even been convicted.

The charge of “minor rape” was manufactured to produce an extradition order. Extradition to the US could mean death for Assange or at least a very long periods sentence, likely spent in solitary confinement. Knowing what Manning went through, the Ecuadorian embassy was a safe space. All this is because, through his reporting, Assange exposed US war crimes in Iraq.

* * *

Update (January 2021): On May 2019, Sweden reopened the sexual assault investigation. That same month, the United States simultaneously filed seventeen new charges against Assange. In November of that year Swedish prosecutors discontinue an investigation into an allegation of rape against Mr Assange. The United States is still pressing its case. On January 4, 2021, Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against the United States’ request to extradite Assange on the grounds that doing so would be “oppressive” given his health. Still, Assange has been denied bail pending an appeal by the United States.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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