After seven years of Ecuadorian asylum in the Latin American country’s U.K. embassy, things quickly went from bad to worse for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Over the course of just a few months, the Australian journalist was arrested out of the embassy, sentenced to 50 weeks for jumping bail, and saw Sweden reopen an old rape case against him. Now the U.S. government is gunning for him as well, and he has come one step closer to facing that fury after U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed America’s extradition request June 12.
The British Claim
Assange is currently serving his 50-week sentence in south-east London’s Belmarsh Prison. The maximum time allowed for skipping bail is one year, so while the judge didn’t quite hand him the max, it’s still close. The journalist’s counsel tried to argue that the seven years of exile in the Ecuadorian embassy should count for something, but British authorities disagreed. It seems they didn’t appreciate the fact that he sought – and was granted – asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden in 2012. Once Ecuador withdrew that protection, however, both Sweden and the United States staked their claims.
The Swedish Claim
In 2010, two women claimed Assange engaged without their consent in unprotected intercourse with them during a trip to Sweden. He denied the claims, of course, saying that the encounters did occur but that they were fully consensual. Swedish authorities investigated briefly but closed the case shortly after it began.
Later that year, however, the investigation was reopened, and a European arrest warrant was issued. Whatever the reason the second investigation was initiated, it was abandoned once Assange was safely under Ecuador’s protection. While most of the alleged crimes have passed the statute of limitations, one charge of sexual assault remains viable until 2020.
But who’s telling the truth here? As Liberty Nation’s legal affairs editor, Scott D. Cosenza, explained, this was not your normal rape allegation:
“Julian Assange met and bedded two women in a weekend. They both found out about the other, and they were both not happy about the situation. After the fact, which is to say, after their sexual dalliance, and then after he was done visiting with them after – so, it’s not like there was a sexual event and then a complaint of improper sex or rape or molestation, but no, they had an intimate affair and then afterward they had meals together and texted together and that kind of thing. But then, subsequent to that, the two women found out about each other and decided ex post facto that the initial encounter all of a sudden wasn’t consensual. And this is what they allege …. So, in Sweden, it’s hard to imagine how this kind of accusation is allowed to proceed forward. In the United States, it’s not rape unless consent is withdrawn prior to the act.”
The U.S. Claim
Assange was accused of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for betraying the U.S. by “providing more than 700,000 government files to WikiLeaks.” Manning’s sentence was commuted in 2017, but she was later arrested for refusing to testify to a grand jury, and will be held and face daily fines until she either complies or the jury expires.
Once Assange was taken by British authorities, the U.S. filed 18 charges against him for his supposed role in what has been called “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
All Roads Lead to America?
As LN’s Leesa K. Donner pointed out after his arrest, the timing of all this is suspect. Ecuador stopped sheltering Assange, and the very same day both Sweden and the U.S. charged him and requested extradition. Indeed, it has been said that Assange himself feared that renewed Swedish efforts against him were just a ploy to turn him over to the United States to begin with.
Now the U.K. Home Secretary has taken a step in the direction of American extradition by signing the request. It must still be ruled on by a judge, and the hearing is set for Friday, June 14. So who will claim Assange after he serves his U.K time? Perhaps more importantly, will it make a difference in the end? It could well be that all roads lead to America.
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