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Archive for July, 2012

Julian Assange/Wikileaks

Posted by lahar9jhadav on July 23, 2012

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Sex, Lies and Julian Assange

Monday 23rd July 2012

When Julian Assange arrived in Sweden in August 2010 he was greeted like a conquering hero. But within weeks there was a warrant out for his arrest and he was being investigated for rape and sexual molestation. Today he is taking sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, arguing he won’t receive justice if he’s taken to Sweden and that US authorities are building a case for his extradition.

Next, Four Corners reporter Andrew Fowler examines in detail what happened in those crucial weeks while Julian Assange was in Sweden. What was the nature of his relationship with the two women who claim he assaulted them? And what did they tell police that led the authorities to seek his arrest?

I will not tell any media how I am going to represent the women in court.” Lawyer for Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilén

Both Assange and his supporters believe the attempt by authorities to force his return to Sweden is simply the first step in a plan to see him extradited to the United States.

Sweden has frankly always been the United States’ lapdog and it’s not a matter we’re particularly proud of.” Assange supporter

The US has nothing to do with the issue here, it’s simply a matter between the UK and Sweden.” Jeffrey L. Bleich, US Ambassador to Australia

Four Corners looks at claims the United States is working hard to unearth evidence that would lead to a charge of “conspiracy to commit espionage” being made against Assange – which in turn would be used in his extradition from Sweden. The program also documents the harassment experienced by Assange’s supporters across the globe – including his Australian lawyer – and the FBI’s attempts to convince some to give evidence against him.

“Sex, Lies and Julian Assange”, reported by Andrew Fowler and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd July at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 24th July at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 at 8.00pm Saturday, ABC iview and at 4 Corners.


Interview with Per E Samuelson, Swedish Defence Lawyer for Assange (Four Corners)

Interview with Birgitta Jonsdottir, MP, Iceland (Four Corners)

Sex, Lies, and Julian Assange – Monday 23 July 2012

KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: He humiliated the most powerful country in the world. But his relationship with two Swedish women, and their claims of sexual assault, may yet destroy Julian Assange.

PER E. SAMUELSON, SWEDISH DEFENCE LAWYER FOR ASSANGE: You shouldn’t write such text messages if you had been raped by that person the night before.

CLAES BORGSTROM, LAWYER FOR ANNA ARDIN & SOFIA WILEN: I will not tell any media of how I am going to represent the women in court. I’m sorry.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Sex, lies, the Swedish justice system, the founder of WikiLeaks – and, somewhere in the background, an angry and embarrassed US government. A tangled web indeed. Welcome to Four Corners.

Julian Assange may have suspended his fate at the hands of a Swedish court by claiming political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but the Swedes are not going away anytime soon. Nor are the British police, who are waiting to arrest him and extradite him to Stockholm the minute he attempts to leave his temporary sanctuary. Assange’s troubles in Sweden go back almost exactly two years. The first sensational intelligence of diplomatic leaks had already hit the public domain. In the American government’s eyes, Assange had become public enemy number one. But for many others around the world, he was a cause célèbre. But for all their power and influence in the world, they had seemed impotent to stop the leaks, or somehow make Assange pay for what they saw as espionage.

When it emerged that two young Swedish women were pressing charges against him, alleging rape and molestation in somewhat curious circumstances, an extradition proceedings began in the British courts, Assange alleged that America was somehow manipulating the whole process behind the scene, in order to in turn extradite him back to the US to face the judicial music there.

On the assumption that Assange can’t wait in his Ecuadorian sanctuary forever, and while we await the outcome of that standoff, Four Corners has gone back to Sweden, where the drama began, to pin down what actually happened there, and take a closer look at the inconsistencies in the various versions of events. Here is Andrew Fowler’s report.

ANDREW FOWLER, REPORTER: In late 2009 WikiLeaks set up home in the Iceland capital of Reykjavik. It was a perfect fit. Iceland has world class internet. Its constitution forbids censorship. Julian Assange was made welcome. It was here that Assange received the first leaked cable of the now famous Cablegate documents. It centred on the US embassy in Reykjavik. Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic MP was working with WikiLeaks. She received an invitation to a cocktail party at the Embassy

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR, MP, ICELAND: Cocktail parties are mind-numbingly boring, and I only go if I have a reason. So I actually decided… I thought it was sort of funny and I’m a bit of a prankster sometimes, so I decided it would be quite funny for me to go with one of the WikiLeaks people to the Embassy.

ANDREW FOWLER: She invited Julian Assange, but on the day of the cocktail party she couldn’t find him. Birgitta Jonsdottir decided not to go, but Assange did.

In a moment of monumental chutzpah Julian Assange inveigled his way into the cocktail party here at the US embassy. He struck up a conversation with US diplomat Sam Watson. Several weeks later Assange published confidential cables authored by the very same diplomat. Now Sam Watson hadn’t leaked and neither had any of the other US Embassy staff. Nonetheless, there was a massive internal investigation.

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: I think that many people thought that he had actually gone in and mysteriously sucked out the cables with some spy device or something.

ANDREW FOWLER: Once the document came out, it was convenient to say it might have come from the Embassy?


ANDREW FOWLER: Which would have driven the United States intelligence agencies crazy trying to find out where this leak came from?

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: Yes. Well you know, they all need to have a reason to earn their bread.

ANDREW FOWLER: It was the first act of humiliation by WikiLeaks of the world’s greatest superpower, but it was nothing compared to what was to come: Collateral Murder; the gunning down of unarmed civilians in a Baghdad street; and the Afghan War Logs. Eight months after his taunting of the US in Iceland, Assange landed in Sweden. He was now a cyber-celebrity.

THOMAS MATTSSON, EDITOR, EXPRESSEN NEWSPAPER: I would say he was… it was a like a pop star, ah, arriving in Sweden. He made public appearances and many media companies wanted to, to talk about… talk with him about eventual co-operation with WikiLeaks.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange had come to Sweden to speak at a conference, but he was also there for more intriguing reasons – to negotiate the use of a former underground nuclear fall-out shelter that stores Internet servers. It would provide first class security against the prying eyes and ears of the world’s intelligence agencies. The bomb shelter houses the computer hardware of Rick Falkvinge’s Swedish Pirate Party.

RICK FALKVINGE, SWEDISH PIRATE PARTY: We contacted them first, as in just offering server space – right?

ANDREW FOWLER: It might sound like a whacky organisation, but in Sweden it’s taken seriously enough to have a member in the European Parliament. The Party’s close to WikiLeaks.

RICK FALKVINGE: So we knew about them, they knew about us. We saw they were in trouble and we said, “Hey guys we might be able to help you out here.”

ANDREW FOWLER: Falkvinge offered WikiLeaks some space in the bunker.

RICK FALKVINGE: It’s an amazing place, to be honest. But, yeah, that’s where we offered them hosting space. I don’t know how they’re using it. I shouldn’t know how they’re using it. That would interfere with my interests. But I understand it got quite some attention worldwide that WikiLeaks is now hosted in a nuclear bomb-proof fallout shelter.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange was on a roll. Stockholm August 16th, 2010. Julian Assange caught a train from the central station. All the years of hard work were finally paying dividends for Julian Assange. Collateral Murder had been released, so too had the Afghan War Logs. But what would happen in the next few days would derail the WikiLeaks juggernaut.

Assange was not travelling alone. His companion was Sofia Wilen, a 26-year-old admirer. As Assange and Wilen left the train to spend the night together, they could have no idea of the repercussions that would flow from their one night stand. Assange’s life would later descend into turmoil.

Two days earlier, the faithful and adoring had gathered at the L.O. building – Stockholm’s Trade Union Headquarters. In the audience were two women: Sofia Wilen – in the pink cashmere sweater – and Anna Ardin. Assange was staying at Ardin’s flat. They’d slept together the previous night. Later she would tell a friend she had a “wild weekend” with Assange.

Sofia Wilen was enthralled by the Assange phenomena – she texted during his talk, “He looked at me!”

PER E. SAMUELSON: He came to Sweden on the 11th of August 2010, and he had this apartment where one of these women lived. She was supposed to be away so he could stay there, but she came home on the that Friday night – 13th of August – and then they had co…sensual sex and he continued to stay in that apartment until the 18th of August. But in the meantime he made acquaintance with the other woman, and and one night he travelled to her town in Sweden and they had co-co-co…

ANDREW FOWLER: Consensual.

PER E. SAMUELSON: Consensual sex.

ANDREW FOWLER: The sex with Sofia Wilen in her apartment might have been consensual, but critically there was a question over whether Assange had used a condom. The next day, Assange caught the train back to Stockholm. Wilen stayed at home, worried about the possibility of an STD infection. She later rang Anna Ardin, Assange’s lover of the previous week.

PER E. SAMUELSON: Somehow the two women started to exchange text messages which… with each other and started to discuss what had happened, and they ended up at the police station, but they did not file any charges against Julian.

ANDREW FOWLER: Ardin and Wilen went to Central Stockholm’s Klara police station to see if they could compel Assange to take an STD test should he refuse.

PER E. SAMUELSON: But the police interpreted what one of the girls said as some sort of sex crime having been committed and that resulted in a prosecutor the same night issuing a warrant of arrest for Julian.

ANDREW FOWLER: It would become a tabloid journalist’s dream: sex, politics and international intrigue.

(to Thomas Mattson) How big a story has the Assange case been here?

THOMAS MATTSON: The Assange story has been huge, of course…

ANDREW FOWLER: Thomas Mattson is the Editor of Expressen.

THOMAS MATTSON: The story has so many aspects. You have the political question whether this is a case created to damage WikiLeaks…

ANDREW FOWLER: At the time though, Mattson thought it was little more than salacious scandal.

THOMAS MATTSSON: I think that many people… in the beginning, people were, like, shaking their heads, thinking that if you are innocent, well in that case, this is, cannot be a problem. Just show up, say that you’re innocent and you will most probably be cleared, if that’s the case.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange in fact did go to the Swedish Police ten days after the first allegations were made. He was interviewed but not charged with any offence, and he was free to leave the country while the inquiry continued.

PER E. SAMUELSON: In mid-September he got a message from his then-lawyer, but the prosecutor did not want him and… that he was… for an interview, and that he was free to leave Sweden, and under that assumption he left Sweden in the afternoon of the 27th of September in good faith that he had sought for and got approval from the prosecutor to leave the country.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange made his way to London, holing up at the Frontline Club for journalists. He had unfinished business with America.

JULIAN ASSANGE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WIKILEAKS (October, 2010): This disclosure is about the truth.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange was at his peak, working with some of the most prestigious and influential media outlets in the world – including the Guardian and New York Times. But ominously, 12 days after giving Assange clearance to leave the country, the Swedes issued a warrant for his arrest. Three weeks later WikiLeaks launched the third big hit against America: The Iraq War Logs.

Then the Swedish prosecutor upped the ante – with Assange now working on the biggest and most sensitive cache of US cables yet, Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest.

JENNIFER ROBINSON, UK LEGAL ADVISOR TO ASSANGE: You only need to look at the way that Red Notices are used around the world. Red Notices are normally the preserve of terrorists and dictators. The president of Syria does not have a Red Notice alert. Gaddafi in Libya, at the same time Julian’s arrest warrant was issued, was not subject to a Red Notice but an Orange Notice. It was an incredibly… it was incredibly unusual that a red notice would be sought for an allegation of this kind.

ANDREW FOWLER: The timing of the Red Notice could not have been worse. US Army soldier Bradley Manning had allegedly leaked WikiLeaks more than a quarter of a million classified documents, and Julian Assange was anxious to get them out. They became known as Cablegate.

JULIAN ASSANGE (September 2011): There are so many thousands of stories that have come from that and have influenced elections and have been involved in the course of revolutions.

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information. It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens out national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.

ANDREW FOWLER: An outraged Washington set up a crack team of Pentagon investigators to take on WikiLeaks. It even launched a legally questionable financial blockade to starve WikiLeaks of funds. For America, Cablegate was the final straw. Some even wanted Assange dead.

(Excerpt from Fox News, December, 2010)

FOX PANELLIST: This guy’s a traitor, a treasonous, and, and he’s broken every law of the United States, the guy ought to be… and I’m not for the death penalty, so if I’m not for the death penalty there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son-of-a-bitch.

FOX PRESENTER: Paul what about it?

FOX PANELLIST II: This little punk… now I stand up for Obama. Obama, if you’re listening today you should take this guy out, have the CIA take him out.

(End of excerpt)

ANDREW FOWLER: If Assange was looking for support from home, he didn’t get it.

JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PM (December 2010): I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It is a grossly irresponsible thing to do – and, an illegal thing to do.

ANDREW FOWLER: The then-Attorney-General threatened to revoke his Australian passport. It was only because the Federal Police believed that Assange’s passport was the best way to track him that he kept it.

JULIAN ASSANGE (September 2011): Well the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General are US lackeys. I mean, it’s a simple as that. They had a whole of government task force involving every intelligence agency and the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Defence and him trying to work out how to deal with WikiLeaks and me personally.

ANDREW FOWLER: Though the task force found that Assange had broken no law, his more immediate worry was that his extradition to Sweden would be a backdoor to onward extradition to the United States.

For more than 500 days Julian Assange and his legal team fought his extradition. Through the magistrates courts to the High Court and on to the Supreme Court, the most powerful court in the land. But on June the 14th Julian Assange lost his final appeal. The Supreme Court ruled he’d have to be extradited. Five days later, Assange fled to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Last month, we managed a brief phone call from a London hotel with Assange in the embassy.

(on phone to Julian Assange) Ok, hang on, I’m just going to put the speaker phone on, one second, sorry…

He revealed why he was seeking political asylum.

JULIAN ASSANGE (on phone): Yes, there are a number of dramatic events that occurred just beforehand. First of all, the Swedish government publicly announced that it would detain me without charge in prison under severe conditions. On the same evening, the UK government security contractors that maintained the electronic manacle around my leg turned up unannounced at 10.30pm and insisted on fitting another manacle to my leg, saying that this was part of routine maintenance – which did not sound to be credible.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange sensed that the net was tightening around him.

JULIAN ASSANGE (on phone): Then the next day, the Crown Prosecution Service, acting we believe on behalf of the Swedish government, requested that the 14 days that I had to apply to the European Court of Human Rights, be reduced to zero.

Assange is safe all the time he remains inside the embassy. But once he steps out, it’s almost certain he’ll be arrested and extradited to Sweden.

PER E. SAMUELSON: The minute he hits Swedish soil he will be arrested. He will be brought to a custody jail. He will be kept there in isolation for four days. He can only meet with me and my co-lawyer. On the fourth day he will be brought into a courtroom in handcuffs in front of a custody judge, and they will decide whether he will be kept in custody up until the final court case is tried, or if we if he will be released. I will try to get him released of course. But at least four days in Sweden in Swedish prison is… we can’t avoid that.

ANDREW FOWLER: At the heart of the matter is whether the Swedish judicial authorities will treat him fairly. Certainly, events so far provide a disturbing picture of Swedish justice. Using facts agreed between the defence and prosecution and other verified information, we have pieced together what happened during those crucial three weeks in August.

On August 11th, 2010, Assange arrived in Sweden to attend a conference organised by the Swedish Brotherhood – a branch of the Social Democratic Party. He was offered Anna Ardin’s apartment while she was away, but Ardin returned home a day early on Friday the 13th. She invited Assange to stay the night, and they had sex. She would later tell police Assange had violently pinned her down and ignored her requests to use a condom. Assange denies this.

The following day, Assange addressed the conference with Ardin at his side. Later that afternoon Ardin organised the Swedish equivalent of a top-notch barbeque – a Crayfish Party. She posted a Twitter message. “Julian wants to go to a crayfish party. Anyone have a couple of available seats tonight or tomorrow?”

The crayfish party was held that night in a court yard off her apartment. It went on until the early hours of the morning. Ardin tweeted at 2am: “Sitting outdoors at 02:00 and hardly freezing with the world’s coolest, smartest people! It’s amazing!”

A guest at the party would later tell Swedish Police the event was a very hearty evening. When he offered to put Assange up at his apartment, Ardin replied, “He can stay with me.”

In the past 24 hours, Ardin had worked closely with Assange, had sex with him, organised a crayfish party on his behalf – and, according to one witness, turned down alternate accommodation for him. It is during this same period that police will later investigate whether Assange coerced and sexually molested Anna Ardin.

PER E. SAMUELSON: Well, if you send text messages like that, “I’ve just spent some time with the coolest people in the world”, the night after you then say you were raped – I mean you shouldn’t write such text messages if you had been raped by that person the night before.

ANDREW FOWLER: Your client described Julian Assange as a “cool man”. I think, one of the “coolest men in the world” that she’d had in her bed.

CLAES BORGSTROM: I will argue in court. I have of course arguments concerning exactly what you’re talking about now, but I will not tell any media of how I am going to represent the women in in court. I’m sorry.

ANDREW FOWLER: But can you see how that looks as though…

CLAES BORGSTROM: Yes, of course I can.

ANDREW FOWLER: …it’s a fit up. It looks as though they are in fact setting him up.

CLAES BORGSTROM: I’m quite aware of that.

ANDREW FOWLER: Sunday August 15th – the next day. Assange attended a dinner party at Stockholm’s Glenfiddich restaurant, organised by pirate party founder Rick Falkvinge.

RICK FALKVINGE: I think a lot of people at the… at the table had meatballs. I think Julian might have been one of them. Now, Swedish meatballs that, that’s a little bit like mum’s apple pie in Sweden – as in, you can call my wife ugly, you can kick my dog, but the instant you say something bad about my mother’s meatballs I’m going to take it personal.

ANDREW FOWLER: Also at the dinner was Anna Ardin.

(to Rick Falkvinge) So, just to get this straight: Julian Assange arrived with Anna Ardin and he left with Anna Ardin.


ANDREW FOWLER: What was their behaviour like towards each other?

RICK FALKVINGE: Well, I was discussing mainly with Julian and the… again I can’t go into too much detail here, but it was at least a very professional dinner. There were two high level organisations, both intent on changing the world behaving professionally.

ANDREW FOWLER: The fact that Anna Ardin accompanied Julian Assange through this dinner and left with him – what does that say to you?

RICK FALKVINGE: Well that’s going into speculating on merits of extradition, and I can’t really do that. I think that be… you’re presenting an objective fact, as did I, and if people want to read something into that that’s obviously ripe for doing so, but I can’t spell it out.

ANDREW FOWLER: Four Corners has obtained a photograph, lodged with police investigators, from that evening. Anna Ardin is on the left. Afterwards, Assange would again spend the night at her apartment.

The following day, August the 16th, Assange had sex with Sophia Wilen at her apartment. According to police records, Ardin was aware that he had slept with Sophia. A witness told police he contacted Anna Ardin looking for Assange. She texted back: “He’s not here. He’s planned to have sex with the cashmere girl every evening, but not made it. Maybe he finally found time yesterday?” That same day, the witness asked Ardin, “Is it cool he’s living there? Do you want, like, for me to fix something else?” According to the witness she replied: “He doesn’t, like, sleep at nights so that’s a bit difficult. So he has a bit of difficulty taking care of his hygiene. But it’s ok if he lives with me, it’s no problem.”

Three days later on August 20th, Wilen, accompanied by Ardin went to the Klara police station in central Stockholm to seek advice about whether Assange could be forced to take an STD test. Ardin had gone along primarily to support Wilen. Sometime during Wilen’s questioning the police announced to Ardin and Wilen that Assange was to be arrested and questioned about possible rape and molestation. Wilen became so distraught she refused to give any more testimony and refused to sign what had been taken down.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: The circumstances leading up to the issue of the arrest warrant gave cause for grave concern for Julian about the procedures that were adopted in the investigation. We have to remember that when the announcement was put out that he would be subject to a warrant, one of the complainants was upset by that, and later said that she felt railroaded by the police.

KARIN ROSANDER, SWEDISH PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE: Well what happened is what was that the duty prosecutor got a phone call from the police and the duty prosecutor decided that he should be arrested.

ANDREW FOWLER: And what happened?

KARIN ROSANDER: He was arrested in his absence, but he… they never got in… got in contact with him so, but he was arrested in his absence. It’s a technical… technical thing in Sweden, Swedish law, yeah.

ANDREW FOWLER: The Prosecutor’s Office might not have contacted Assange but within hours they let the whole of Sweden know what was going on – leaking to the Expressen Tabloid the statements of Ardin and Wilen. The newspaper front page read: “Assange hunted for rape in Sweden”.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Julian wakes up the following morning to read the newspapers to hear that he’s wanted for double rape and he’s absolutely shocked.

THOMAS MATTSSON: Two of our reporters had information about Julian Assange, and we also had a confirmation from the prosecutor which confirmed on record that there was a police investigation against Julian Assange.

ANDREW FOWLER: It was now the case took a strange twist. Within 24 hours, a more senior prosecutor dismissed the rape allegations, leaving only the lesser accusation of molestation. Assange willingly went to the police on August 30th and made a statement.

During the interview he expressed his fears that anything he said would end up in the tabloid newspaper Expressen. The interviewing police officer said: “I’m not going to leak anything.” The interview was leaked.

PER E. SAMUELSON: Why did you leak his name to a tabloid paper? How… how can you drop the case and reopen the case and how can you… how can you not say that he waited for five weeks in Sweden voluntarily to participate in the investigation? Why do you have to arrest him? Why do you have to keep him in handcuffs? Why can’t you conduct this in a proper manner? The rest of the world sees it, but Sweden unfortunately doesn’t.

ANDREW FOWLER: It is perhaps understandable that Assange had doubts he would receive fair treatment from the Swedish authorities. On September 15th, the prosecutor told Assange he was permitted to leave Sweden. Assange, back in England, would later offer to return within a month. The Swedish Authorities said too late – a second warrant had already been issued for his arrest.

ANDREW FOWLER: He says that he left the country and then was prepared to come back at any time. Is that your understanding?

CLAES BORGSTROM: I don’t believe that.

ANDREW FOWLER: He says that he was prepared to come back in October but the prosecutor wanted him back earlier.

CLAES BORGSTROM: I don’t know. I don’t believe he wanted to he was he wanted to come freely back to Sweden. I don’t think so.

ANDREW FOWLER: Can you understand that the Australian people may not understand how somebody can be accused in their absence when they haven’t even been interviewed, then have that rape case dropped, the arrest warrant removed and then have it re-instituted, all in the space of a few days?

KARIN ROSANDER: Yeah I can very well understand the confusion and, and, I… that is very difficult to understand, well, exactly how it works.

ANDREW FOWLER: Well you call it confusing, it’s… it may be slightly more than that.

KARIN ROSANDER: Well that’s the way it works here in Sweden so, well… but I can understand the confusion, definitely.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange, still hunkered down in the London embassy, has no doubt what his fate will be if he is extradited.

JULIAN ASSANGE (on phone): If I was suddenly taken to Sweden, I would not be in a position to apply for political asylum in relation to United States. it would be the end of the road. I would just be taken from one jail to another.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: the US has said specifically, the US ambassador to London said, they would wait to see what happened in Sweden. And so we are very concerned about the prospect that once matters are resolved in Sweden, he will… there will be an extradition request from there and he will not be able to travel home to Australia and will have to fight extradition in the Swedish court.

ANDREW FOWLER: The US Ambassador to Australia suggests that Washington isn’t interested in the Swedish extradition.

JEFFREY L. BLEICH, US AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA (May 2012): It’s not something that the US cares about, it’s not interested in it, it hasn’t been involved in it – and frankly, if he’s in Sweden, there’s a less robust extradition relationship than there is between the US and the UK, so I think it’s one of those narratives that has been made up – there’s nothing to it.

MICHAEL RATNER, US LAWYER ASSANGE: That’s diplomatic speak. That doesn’t mean anything. Their last statement three days ago by their spokesperson Linn Boyd says we are continuing our investigation of WikiLeaks. So you can’t accept those words.

ANDREW FOWLER: Michael Ratner, Assange’s New York lawyer, believes there’s an easy solution to the issue.

MICHAEL RATNER: If they flatly said, “We do not… we will not prosecute Julian Assange” that would be a very different kind of statement – and… and they, in my view, is they should that I think they should say it, one, because then Julian Assange could leave the Ecuadorian Embassy, go to Sweden, deal with Sweden and continue on with his life.

ANDREW FOWLER: But Ratner thinks that’s not what the United States wants. He’s convinced a Grand Jury is investigating WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Four Corners has obtained a copy of a subpoena from a Grand Jury which is examining evidence for possible charges relating to “conspiracy to communicate or transmit national defence information” and obtaining “information protected from disclosure from national defence”. Critically the subpoena contains the identifying codes “10” and “3793′.

MICHAEL RATNER: There’s a Grand Jury currently sitting in Alexandria Virginia and the Grand Jury’s number – and it’s interesting the Grand Jury’s number is 10 standing for the year it began, GJ which is Grand Jury and then 3793. Three is the Conspiracy Statute in the United States. 793 is the Espionage Statute. So what they’re investigating is 3793: conspiracy to commit espionage.

ANDREW FOWLER: Certainly, anyone associated with Assange is feeling the heat of the US authorities. Icelandic activist, Smari McCarthy, worked on the Collateral Murder video. We caught up with him at a Reykjavik hotel.

ANDREW FOWLER: So what is it about WikiLeaks that changed everything?

SMARI MCCARTHY, ICELAND MODERN MEDIA INITIATIVE: It industrialised the process of leaking.

ANDREW FOWLER: McCarthy flew into Washington earlier this year to attend a conference. Security officials had him in their sights the moment he stepped off the plane.

SMARI MCCARTHY: When I get out through the doorway there’s two bordering customs control officers. One of them takes a look at my passport, says, “Yes this is the guy”, and they walk with me away.

ANDREW FOWLER: McCarthy was questioned for several minutes about the reason for his trip, before the border guards got to the point.

SMARI MCCARTHY: And then about, like, in the last couple of minutes they say, “Well you know we’re actually asking you these question is because we know you’re related to WikiLeaks”, and I say, “Well I was, but I’m no longer”. And they ask, like, “So you’re not in contact with Julian Assange?” And I say, “No, I have no contact with Julian”, and they’re like, “Oh, okay”, and basically let me out. I’m on my way.

ANDREW FOWLER: But it wasn’t the last McCarthy would see of the FBI. After the conference McCarthy had a drink with friends before heading to the Washington Metro. He missed the last train. As he walked out of the Archives Station two men confronted him.

SMARI MCCARTHY: Two guys come up to me and address me by name, and say that they’re FBI agents, and, “We’d like to ask you some questions”, and I say to them, “Well I’ve had some beers and I don’t have lawyers, so no, I’m not going to answer any questions”. They nevertheless give me a piece of paper with a phone number and an email address. This was not a business card, this was a piece of paper. This was just a kind of a card file thing, but it was handwritten and the email address was not at FBI.gov as you would expect from FBI agents.

ANDREW FOWLER: Just why they wouldn’t give an FBI email address puzzled McCarthy .

SMARI MCCARTHY: They say, “Well, they contain our full names”, and I said, “Why is that a problem?” “Well we’re afraid that if our full names… if we give you our full names, then there will be retaliation against us personally from Anonymous.”

ANDREW FOWLER: The two men seemed worried he might be a member of the cyber-hacker group Anonymous which had worked with WikiLeaks.

SMARI MCCARTHY: And I said, “Who the hell do you think I am? I’m not like the grand master of Anonymous. There’s no… I don’t even know anybody in Anonymous,” right?

ANDREW FOWLER: McCarthy’s experience could be dismissed as an oddity, but in the backstreets of Paris we found someone with a very similar story. Jérémie Zimmermann heads up an Internet activist group. He’s a WikiLeaks supporter.

JÉRÉMIE ZIMMERMANN, INTERNET LIBERTY: I’m a friend with Julian. I think he’s a he’s a very intelligent and and very witty person, and I enjoy very much the conversations we have together.

ANDREW FOWLER: Earlier this year, as he prepared to board a plane at Washington’s Dulles Airport, two men approached him about his involvement with WikiLeaks

JÉRÉMIE ZIMMERMANN: They didn’t show any badge. So I didn’t ask for one, but I saw their colleague maintaining the gate of the plane open, so I thought you don’t do that with a, you know, a university library card, so I thought…

ANDREW FOWLER: So you thought they must be FBI?

JÉRÉMIE ZIMMERMANN: I thought they must be FBI – and actually the agent questioning me was a caricature of FBI agent, you know, with a large jaw, short hair, tight suit – and he said, “Well, your name was mentioned in a criminal investigation for conspiracy involving lots of people”, and so which case he was referring to it’s the Grand Jury in Virginia. And so I ask him, thinking aloud, if I understand correctly: “Either I talk to you or I take full responsibility for my actions in front of a judge during a fair trial”. And this is where he replied immediately: “Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been to jail?” – in an obvious attempt to intimidate me.

ANDREW FOWLER: What do you think they were trying to achieve?

JÉRÉMIE ZIMMERMANN: Maybe it was to turn me into an informant, try to send me, get information from Julian, or whatever. I don’t know. I will never know, probably.

MICHAEL RATNER: Zimmermann was stopped roughly at the same time coming back from a similar thing with McCarthy, so I don’t know who would be tricking them into thinking they were FBI agents. What we’ve seen in a couple of these stops in the Assange WikiLeaks case is people introduce themselves as Homeland Security – at least in one instance – and not as FBI and then when they get pushed a little they have to admit they’re FBI. Now, it’s interesting when you think about it: these people have been hit by the FBI and that what it also tells you that this is a Justice Department investigation of civilians.

ANDREW FOWLER: Even Assange’s UK legal advisor, Jennifer Robinson, appears to have been caught in the US dragnet.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: I’d had an incredibly long day at work and I was late to the airport. I rushed out to Heathrow, handed over my passport and the woman behind the desk was having a lot of difficulty. She couldn’t check me in. She looked at me in a strange manner and said “Look, this is odd. You’re Australian, you’re travelling home to Australia, you shouldn’t need a visa”. I said, “Well no, I’m Australian. Here’s my passport, I’m going home”, and she said, “I can’t check you in”.

ANDREW FOWLER: A security officer took Robinson’s passport away

JENNIFER ROBINSON: She came back about 15 minutes later carrying a mobile phone, handed my passport to the woman behind the desk and said, “She’s inhibited. We can’t check her in until we’ve got approval from Australia House.”

ANDREW FOWLER: Though Robinson was eventually allowed to catch the plane, she has still not received an explanation why she is on a so-called “inhibited list”. It does not appear to be an Australian government term. But US Homeland Security uses the phrase to identify people who need to be watched.

Now back in England, she continues to be Assange’s legal advisor. We caught up with her on a visit to the Ecuadorian Embassy.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Look he is now gathering and preparing materials for the purpose of his application to the Ecuadorian authorities, and essentially now it’s a matter for the Ecuadorian government.

ANDREW FOWLER: How is he… what’s his manner like? How’s his humour?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: I have never known anyone to deal with the amount of stress that he’s under as well as he does. He’s in very good spirits and still very committed to WikiLeaks work. He may be confined to the embassy but as he showed during house arrest, that doesn’t stop him. In the last 18 months we’ve seen a television program, we’ve seen further WikiLeaks releases – so I don’t think he’ll let this stop him either.

ANDREW FOWLER: Assange’s primary concern is that the Australian Government has never properly addressed the central question: the near certainty that a Grand Jury is investigating WikiLeaks and the possibility of him being charged.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: We are very concerned about the very prospect of potential extradition to the US. We need only look to the treatment of Bradley Manning. He’s been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years now, in conditions for a large part of that detention which the UN Special Repertoire said amount to torture. We are very concerned about the prospect of him ending up in the US, and the risk of onward extradition from Sweden was always a concern and remains a concern.

ANDREW FOWLER: Once in Sweden he would be at the mercy of a system which has a record of complying with US wishes. And there’s evidence that Sweden has acted illegally in past extraditions involving the US.

RICK FALKVINGE: Sweden has frankly always been the United States’ lap dog and it’s not a matter we are particularly proud of. The Swedish Government has… essentially, whenever a US official says, “Jump”, the Sweden Government asks, “How high?”

ANDREW FOWLER: If that seems like a heavy handed comment, there’s evidence to back it up.

RICK FALKVINGE: There was a famous case in last decade where a couple of Swedish citizens were even renditioned by the CIA in a quite torturous manner to Egypt where they were tortured further, which goes against every part of Swedish legislation, every international agreement on human rights – and not to say human dignity.

ANDREW FOWLER: A United Nations investigation later found against Sweden. The country was forced to pay compensation. For Assange, coupled with his other experiences of the Swedish judicial system, it is perhaps understandable that he fears ending up in Sweden.

MICHAEL RATNER: For me the question really is if I’m sitting in Julian Assange’s if I if I’m sitting in Julian Assange’s position, I’d be very, very nervous because the United States gets their hands on you in this case, and you’re a goner. So, you know, what I get asked all the time is, “Well, how do you know.” To me the question isn’t how I know I know there’s a lot of evidence out there that it looks like that. To me the burden should be on the United States Government to say, “We are not planning to prosecute Julian Assange”. If they just gave that assurance, I can guarantee you that Julian Assange would go to Sweden tomorrow.

KERRY O’BRIEN: We approached Australia’s Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, to pose a number of questions related to the Assange case, but she was unavailable on holidays. Ultimately, some of our questions were answered by a Foreign Affairs spokesman, by email, on behalf of Foreign Minister Bob Carr. They’re on our website.

Next week on Four Corners, the woman who forecast her own brutal death, but could find no one willing to listen. Until then, good night.

End of transcript

Julian Assange’s lawyer ‘prevented from boarding flight at Heathrow’

Jennifer Robinson Jennifer Robinson says she was told she was on a ‘watch list’ and would need official approval to return to her native Australia

A lawyer for the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has said she was stopped at Heathrow airport and told she was on a watch list requiring official approval before she could return to her native Australia.

Jennifer Robinson said a member of airport security told her she “must have done something controversial” and that they would have to contact the Australian high commission in London before letting her on her flight.

The Australian human rights lawyer was later allowed on to a plane bound for Sydney, where she is due to speak at the Commonwealth Law Conference on Friday.

Australia’s department of foreign affairs said it was not aware of any restrictions on Robinson’s travel and added that its high commission in London had no record of receiving a call from the British authorities about her movements.

Robinson wrote on Twitter at 9.30pm on Wednesday night: “Just delayed from checking in at LHR [London Heathrow] because I’m apparently ‘inhibited’ – requiring approval from Australia House @dfat [department of foreign affairs] to travel …

“Security guard: ‘you must have done something controversial’ because we have to phone the embassy. ‘Certain government agencies’ list.”

She met Assange – who is fighting extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations – on Monday, according to a Tweet from the official WikiLeaks account.

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), which is organising the conference at which Robinson will appear, voiced concerns about the incident.

It said in a statement: “If these reports are accurate, then the CLA believe they raise profound issues concerning the independence of lawyers and their clients.


Diplomatic Assurances Against Torture Offer No Protection From Abuse

November 9, 2006

The United Nations’ ruling that Sweden violated the global torture ban in its involvement in the CIA transfer of an asylum seeker to Egypt is an important step toward establishing accountability for European governments complicit in illegal US renditions, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a decision made public today, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that diplomatic assurances against torture did not provide an effective safeguard against ill-treatment in the case of an asylum seeker transferred from Sweden to Egypt by CIA operatives in December 2001. The committee decided that Sweden’s involvement in the US transfer of Mohammed al-Zari to Egypt breached the absolute ban on torture, despite assurances of humane treatment provided by Egyptian authorities prior to the rendition.

Human Rights Watch today released a detailed briefing paper answering questions about such “diplomatic assurances.”

“This UN ruling shows that we are slowly but surely getting to the truth about European complicity in illegal US renditions,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “European parliaments and prosecutors must continue their inquiries into these matters.”

Swedish officials handed over al-Zari and another Egyptian, Ahmed Agiza, to CIA operatives on December 18, 2001 for transfer from Stockholm to Cairo. Both men were asylum seekers in Sweden, and suspected of terrorist activities in Egypt, where torture of such suspects is commonplace. Returns to risk of torture are illegal under international law.

To cover itself, the Swedish government obtained promises from the Egyptian authorities that the men would not be tortured or subjected to the death penalty, and would be given fair trials. Despite post-return monitoring by Swedish diplomats, both men were tortured in Egypt. In April 2004, Agiza was convicted on terrorism charges following a flagrantly unfair trial monitored by Human Rights Watch. Al-Zari was released in October 2003 without charge or trial, and remains under police surveillance in Egypt.

The Human Rights Committee decision stated that Sweden “has not shown that the diplomatic assurances procured were in fact sufficient in the present case to eliminate the risk of ill-treatment to a level consistent” with the ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“The committee found that diplomatic promises did nothing to protect al-Zari from torture,” said Cartner. “Western governments need to wake up to the fact that they can’t trust promises of humane treatment from countries that routinely practice torture.”

In a separate May 2005 ruling on Agiza’s case, the UN Committee Against Torture concluded that Sweden violated the Convention against Torture by illegally expelling him 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 al-Zari and Agiza cases illustrate why diplomatic assurances against torture from governments with a well-documented record of such abuse are worthless. The fact that such governments routinely violate their legal obligations to treat all people in their custody humanely makes it highly unlikely they would safeguard an isolated individual from abuse. Moreover, governments that employ torture regularly deny that they practice this abuse and refuse to investigate claims of it.

The cases also demonstrate that the monitoring of detainees after they are sent back does not add a measure of protection. Torture is a criminal activity of the most serious kind, practiced in secret using techniques that often defy detection – for example, mock drowning, sexual assault, and electricity applied to bodies internally. In many countries, medical personnel in detention facilities monitor the abuse to ensure that the torture is not easily detected.

Detainees subjected to torture are often afraid to complain to anyone about the abuse for fear of reprisals against them or their family members. Even in the unlikely event that torture is confirmed, neither the sending nor receiving government has any incentive to investigate or acknowledge a breach of the assurances as that would amount to admitting involvement in torture.

Sweden has recently been singled out by two significant European bodies investigating illegal CIA rendition and detention activities. In June, Dick Marty, a Swiss senator tasked by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe with investigating European states’ involvement in “extraordinary renditions” and possible secret detention sites, highlighted the al-Zari and Agiza cases in his report. Marty concluded that: “Relying on the principle of trust and on diplomatic assurances given by undemocratic states known not to respect human rights is simply cowardly and hypocritical.”

A special European Parliament committee established to investigate European complicity in extraordinary rendition and the unlawful detention of terrorism suspects by the US government also targeted Sweden as directly complicit in the men’s transfers to torture. In June, this committee called on “Member States [of the EU] to reject altogether reliance on diplomatic assurances against torture.”

The Swedish government must now comply with the Human Rights Committee’s decision in the al-Zari case. The committee has indicated that monetary compensation for the petitioner is one appropriate remedy. Following the Agiza decision, Human Rights Watch communicated to the authorities in Sweden a detailed list of measures that would indicate compliance with that decision, including: granting monetary compensation; permitting a new application for asylum in Sweden; and legislative changes prohibiting the use of diplomatic assurances. To date, Sweden has failed to implement any of these recommendations.


[1] link

[2] link

[3] link

US increases harassment of WikiLeaks, Assange associates

Crikey Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane writes:


As the Australian government continues to insist the United States is not interested in charging Julian Assange, the Obama administration has significantly ramped up its harassment of activists and journalists linked to WikiLeaks in recent months.

The harassment of net security activist Jacob Appelbaum has long been a matter of public record. Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir no longer travels to the US in case she is arrested, on the advice of the Icelandic state department. In recent months, however, the list of targets for harassment has expanded. French internet freedom activist Jeremie Zimmermann was stopped by FBI agents in May while attending a conference in Washington DC, two months after being interviewed for Assange’s television program. Icelander Smari McCarthy was also been stopped while entering the US, and according to one report, asked by three officials to become an informer about Assange.

Combined with the still-unexplained stopping of human rights lawyer Jen Robinson in April, also while travelling, suggests a more systematic approach to harassing people connected with WikiLeaks by Department of Homeland Security officials and the FBI.

Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker and journalist based in New York. Her work focusing on America post-9/11, has been nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy Award for outstanding investigative journalism. The films also earned Poitras the enmity of the Department of Homeland Security, which since 2006 has stopped her on virtually every occasion on her return to the US and interrogated her about her activities while out of the country. Her electronic equipment, notes and other documents have also been seized. On one occasion, armed officials demanded she stop taking notes of their treatment of her because her pen was a threatening weapon, and threatened to handcuff her to stop her. Glenn Greenwald at Salon, DemocracyNow and The New York Times in 2010 have all covered DHS’s treatment of an American journalist for the offence of making documentaries that don’t accord with Washington’s view of reality.

This year, once she started working on a project with Assange, DHS’s harassment of Poitras shifted and she starting being detained by DHS agents before boarding flights in London, Amsterdam, and Paris, rather than on arrival in the US. The most recent occasion was on June 1 before a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to the US, when she was “interviewed” about her activities and where she has been staying, before being patted down and allowed to board the flight. Preflight interviewing is consistent with the DHS protocol for passengers on an “inhibited” list. Poitras has been stopped several times at Heathrow while flying Virgin Atlantic to the US, such that she is now on first name terms with Virgin’s Heathrow head of security. “Your name is on a ‘target’ list,” he told Poitras on June 1, before a DHS official arrived to speak to her. “It’s rare for a US citizen.”

DHS declined to speak about the harassment of Poitras or the treatment of McCarthy and Zimmermann on the grounds that “due to privacy laws, US Customs and Border Protection is prohibited from discussing specific cases”. Some pabulum accompanied the refusal, from Michael J. Friel of the Customs and Border Protection media area, including “Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband. CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of US law.”

Virgin Atlantic also refused to make any comment on security matters on the basis that they were “strictly confidential”. This follows Virgin Atlantic’s peculiar about-face after initially revealing to Crikey that Jen Robinson was stopped at the request of security agencies but then refusing to comment further after the UK Home Office intervened.

The unwillingness of either DHS or a private company to discuss government-ordained-corporate-delivered harassment is not an accidental feature of such processes, or a mere effort to cover embarrassment, but a key element. It prevents the most basic accountability and scrutiny or actions either through a claim of “confidentiality” – often based on the pretence of concern for the “rights” of the target of harassment (rights of course that have already been systematically violated by the agency) – or through outsourcing of implementation to private companies beyond the reach of political scrutiny, or through bland bureaucratese that is intended to misdirect, obscure or provide only the pretence of responsiveness. Or, in this case, all three.

While the apparent extension of harassment reinforces the case that, contra the willful blindness of the Australian government, the Obama administration is accelerating its investigation of Julian Assange, Poitras has been enduring such treatment for six years, all due to her journalism. And at the hands of a government that notionally guarantees freedom of the press.

Was US Govt Behind Coup That Toppled Oz PM?

Following revelations that Julia Gillard’s staff was drafting an acceptance speech two weeks before she ousted Kevin Rudd as Australian PM, and that Kim Beazley was briefing Hillary Clinton on the leadership change two weeks before it happened, I have compiled the following time-line of known events, including selected text from US Embassy cables.
While there is no smoking gun here, it does show that US officials were keenly interested in leadership speculation, identifying Gillard as a potential successor to Rudd within 8 months of his election victory, and closely monitoring her progress on key issues like Israel and Afghanistan. They were also in close contact with the major players in ALP factions, including Mark Arbib and other “protected” sources. Interestingly, the frenzied ALP leadership jockeying in Canberra during May-June 2010 coincides with Bradley Manning’s May 2010 arrest and the frenzied US State Dept diplomacy that followed it.
Make of it what you will!
* * *
24 November 2007 – Rudd wins election after a campaign in which he called climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. He promptly signs the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the USA isolated. Australia withdraws remaining “combat troops” from Iraq.
29 November 2007 – Rudd directly chooses his frontbench, breaking with more than a century of Labor tradition whereby the frontbench was elected by the Labor caucus, with the leader then given the right to allocate portfolios.
13 June 2008 – US Canberrra Embassy cable titled “Deputy PM Julia Gillard Star In Rudd Government” notes:

“At this point, Gillard would have to be considered the front-runner to succeed Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, which would make her Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Several contacts caution, however, that Rudd is ambivalent about Gillard, who is not from Labor’s Right Wing like he is, and he will avoid creating a potential rival. By the time Labor is thinking beyond Rudd, Gillard may well face more serious competition….
Many key ALP insiders have told poloffs that Gillard, who joined the ALP as a member of the Victorian branch’s Socialist Left faction, is at heart a pragmatist. New South Wales Right powerbroker Mark Arbib (protect) described her as one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP. Michael Cooney (protect), from the ALP Right and a former senior adviser to ALP leaders Mark Latham and Kim Beazley, said she has been very impressive as a minister: knowledgeable on the issues, listens to advice from subordinates and civil servants and is not afraid to delegate responsibility. When we reminded Paul Howes (protect), head of the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ALP Qof the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ALP politicians from the Left, no matter how capable, do not become party leader, he said immediately: “but she votes with the Right.” …
Although long appearing ambivalent about the Australia-US Alliance, Gillard’s actions since she became the Labor Party number two indicate an understanding of its importance… Although warm and engaging in her dealings with American diplomats, it’s unclear whether this change in attitude reflects a mellowing of her views or an understanding of what she needs to do to become leader of the ALP. It is likely a combination of the two. Labor Party officials have told us that one lesson Gillard took from the 2004 elections was that Australians will not elect a PM who is perceived to be anti-American.”

10 November 2008 – Rudd votes against Israel on two UN resolutions, ending Howard government’s unswerving alignment with the United States.
11 Feb 2009 – US Canberrra Embassy cable notes:

“Rudd, who likes to centralize decision-making in any event, undoubtedly believes that with his intellect, his six years as a diplomat in the 1980s and his five years as shadow foreign minister, he has the background and the ability to direct Australia’s foreign policy. His performance so far, however, demonstrates that he does not have the staff or the experience to do the job properly… In October, Rudd’s self-serving and inaccurate leaking of details of a phone call between President Bush and him cast further doubt on his foreign policy judgment… In January, after the press published a story that the U.S. had asked Australia to accept some Guantanamo detainees, the Government responded to the story by issuing a statement publicly acknowledging our confidential request and stating that they were not likely to accept the detainees.”

4 May 2009 – Rudd delays implementing an emissions trading scheme until 2011, defers Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation until 2013.
June 10 2009 – US Canberra Embassy cable titled “Gillard: on Track To Become Australia’s Next Prime Minister” notes:

“Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard – who visits Washington later this month – has positioned herself as the heir apparent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as ALP leader… Gillard, a product of the ALP Left in the state of Victoria, has shifted towards the political center since Rudd became ALP leader and is now a strong supporter of the Australia-US Alliance and Israel. Although she is still seen as a leftist by key right-wing union powerbrokers, that is not likely to stop her from succeeding Rudd as the next leader of the ALP… Gillard recognizes that to become Prime Minister, she must move to the Center, and show her support for the Alliance with the United States… Don Farrell, the right-wing union powerbroker from South Australia told us Gillard is “campaigning for the leadership” and at this point is the front-runner to succeed Rudd, conceding that the Right did not yet have an alternative. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, one of the early NSW Right backers of the Rudd-Gillard team, confided that Gillard is the clear front runner to succeed Rudd and in the end, the ALP caucus will follow the opinion polls if she is the one the public wants…
At present, the question of a successor to Rudd is probably two elections away. Several Rudd confidantes have told us that Rudd appreciates Gillard and sees her as a possible PM, but that he wants to avoid anointing her to head off a possible leadership challenge when his poll numbers inevitably sag. The PM’s brother Greg told us in April that Rudd wants to ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge. Mark Arbib once told us a similar story, though he stressed that Rudd appreciates Gillard’s strengths. However, another Rudd advisor told us that while the PM respects Gillard, his reluctance to share power will eventually lead to a falling out, while Gillard will not want to acquiesce in creating potential rivals. In the meantime, Gillard has proven her value to the Prime Minister and we expect her to remain the most important member of the Rudd Government, after the Prime Minister himself.”

July 2009 – Wikileaks releases report of serious nuclear accident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility (related to later Stuxnet virus).
July 20 2009 – US Canberra Embassy title “Mark Arbib: Clout-wielding Ascending Leader” notes:

“Arbib is a close adviser to Rudd and is his key conduit to the ALP factions… We have found that Arbib is an astute observer and able conversant in the nuts and bolts of U.S. politics. He understands the importance of supporting a vibrant relationship with the U.S. while not being too deferential. We have found him personable, confident and articulate. A strong supporter of the alliance, he has met with us repeatedly throughout his political rise.”

4 August 2009 – US Canberra Embassy cable on ALP Forum:

“Rudd, to the bewilderment of many observers, remains highly popular with voters across the political spectrum. This is the bedrock of Rudd’s unchallenged authority over the party.”

October 2009 – WikiLeaks publishes Joint Services Protocol 440, a British document advising security services on how to avoid documents being leaked.
Dec 23 2009 – US Canberra Embassy cable discusses Rudd’s reshuffled cabinet:

“Foreign Minister Smith stepped out of Rudd’s shadow and the resignation of Joel Fitzgibbon as Defense Minister proved to be a blessing for the government. Support for the U.S. Alliance, and the mission in Afghanistan, remained strong…. Labor Right factional powerbroker Mark Arbib – close to the Prime Minister – was rewarded with a ministry despite his inexperience… [Gillard] remains Rudd’s clear heir apparent. Colleagues continue to be in awe of her mastery of detail and confident performances…Rudd has unprecedented power for a Labor leader; one MP told us he had never seen a Labor Caucus as subservient to its leader, noting Rudd’s control over promotions. Another told us she was surprised at marginal seat holders’ acquiescence on the ETS. However, powerbrokers confide the factions will assert themselves when Rudd’s popularity wanes.”

18 February 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes REYKJAVIK13 cable, dated 13 January 2010. This is the first published Cablegate file.
April 2010 – Polling shows Rudd government was highly popular until this month. Graph here.
April 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes Collateral Murder video.
May 2010 – Bradley Manning is arrested after online chats with Adrian Lamo. US State Dept goes into damage control over release of cables. Australian Mining industry launches media “ad war” against Rudd’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
10 June 2010 (approx) – Australia’s US ambassador and former Labor leader Kim Beazley meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide a briefing on the coming leadership change.
23 June 2010 – Gillard announces leadership bid for next day.
24 June 2010 – Rudd steps down, becoming the only Australian Prime Minister to be removed from office by his own party during his first term.
October 2010 – WikiLeaks release Iraq War Logs.
December 2010 – Fairfax journalist Phillip Dorling publishes WikiLeaks cables (quoted above) showing Australian ALP politicians were in regular contact with the US Embassy.

Shall Sweden’s politically appointed Judges decide the political case against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

To which extent the Swedish institution of Lay Judges would influence the course of events in a possible trial against Julian Assange?

Lay judges in Sweden is an institution from the Middle ages. Such judges are supposed to represent the people, concretely, the people’s “sense” of justice in the courts. However, the first democratic paradox is that these judges ARE NOT elected by the people but instead designated separately by some political parties among their militants — which are in any case, all parties considered, only less than 2.9 percent of the population of Sweden! (see further below, item 4 on democracy issues). These judges intervene together with a professional judge in the assessments, judgment and verdict of cases in the Swedish courts. There is however an increasing conclusion, latest summarized in an article today in Svenska Dagbladet by Daniel Person, that “Lay judges have a tendency to judge according to their political affiliation” [2].

Aftonbladet, another main Swedish newspaper, publishes today 20 February an editorial-article by Eva Franchell containing remarkable revelations [3], also commented in DN:

  • More than 200 lay judges have been the subject for criminal investigations  in Sweden;
  • Twenty-five convicted lay judges have continue act as judges in Swedish courts in the last years.
  • Nearly half of the lay judges are retired individuals (over age 65). Have these lay-judge appointments been converted in a end-of-career chairs for politicians, by politicians?

Disclaimer on the opinions in this article about juridical issues:

I have understanding for certain protests that diverse juridical-educated academics have raise, about the treating of issues on the Swedish legal system in connection to the Assange case in an irrelevant manner. For it looks more as if these individuals would using the “case Assange” to throw away animosity against some Swedish institutions for other purposes, or based in other reasons. The subject has been perhaps too often treated in a sensationalistic tune, or using attacks ad hominem – some of them quite passionate, some others straight vulgar – but with little factual substance or much absence of juridical knowledge. There have been as well several such libellous attacks in the main stream media against Julian Assange or his supporters, actions that compromise professional journalism. Nevertheless,  I firmly believe that any kind of articles or comments  delivered without the basic requirement of relevancy,  may end producing among the public more antipathy than sympathy towards the causes we put forward, or defend. Like this one of justice for WikiLeaks and of its founder Julian Assange.

Human Rights experts, and serious Human Rights activists in the professions of journalism, do have the academic education and the professional experience as to properly examine those issues related to the judiciary system.  Example of these expertise, by which Professors blog have taken proud in presenting to its readers, are Human Rights lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Andrew Kreig, and Human Right activist and journalist Naomi Wolf.


During a second interview I gave recently in Stockholm for the TV network RT – aimed to Arabic speaking audiences – the journalist opened with this straight question, approximately in this formulation:

– “What would happen to Julian Assange at arrival in Sweden if extradited from UK?”

The question demanded an equally straight answer, no space for argumentation, and I had to think faster than reasoning. For which I did answer – as usually happens in such circumstances – with pictures I got spontaneously in mind.

I saw Julian Assange incommunicado in a tiny cell that is frequently visited or controlled – and for which I imagine he will be deprived of rest, of continuous sleep.

And I saw him answering questions posed originally in a language he does not understand. This led me to imagine he was in court. And this means in his case in a secret trial behind close doors. Defended by a lawyer for whom it was forbidden to tell the press about all the investigations details he may know, “in possession” by the prosecutor.

I saw finally Julian Assange been judged by a team consisting of lay judges appointed by political parties and professional judges. And I though in the actual stands of the main political parties in Sweden with regard to WikiLeaks and Assange. And I thought what are the possibilities for Julian Assange – thinking in precedence of trials of that kind – to be judged guilty even if no substantial evidence is presented against him.

Why did I first get those pictures like in a film-reel? Because they remind me so vividly my experiences under the fascist regime of Pinochet, with politically appointed judges, incommunicado arresting system, and trials behind close doors, and guilty verdict without the need of substantial evidence.

It was then when I decided to write these comments.


Of course Sweden – with monarchy and all – is to be regarded as a full democracy; Pinochet regime was a full dictatorship. In fact, the only real similitude between those two governments is the under positioning towards USA strategic interests. But this is NOT a tiny detail.

We already know that a Grand Jury in the U.S. is preparing a case against the WikiLeaks founder. According to a recent interview with Julian Assange and lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Geoffrey Robertson [1], the USA shall most certain seek the extradition of the Wikileaks founder. The reason – as mentioned in the interview – being that a US Grand Jury investigation has been on-going in Washington since last year – preparing aggravating charges on espionage. Such charges, most likely in connection with the Wikileaks Pentagon-disclosures, would entail for Julian Assange “up to ten-years in a maximum security prison”, according to the legal experts. Meanwhile, a recurrent misconception – or deliberately misinformation – published in the international media, is to consider the deportation of Julian Assange from Sweden to the USA as, statistically speaking, “highly unlikely”.

Lay judges. . .

Both in the Pinochet dictatorship and in the democratic Sweden lay judges are appointed politically. In Pinochet’s Chile the right-wing political force in power was represented by the Military Junta itself. The military have achieved government office by force of a putsh supported by all the right-wing political parties and implemented with participation of the CIA. Lay judges, which participated in courts eventually with professional judges or also law-school educated officers, were often military officers from the “ranks”.

First important aspect: in Sweden lay judges ARE used in criminal-law cases

According to the common notion, lay judges are used in some civil law [4]. This last “universal” notion has conveyed that the lay-judges issue has not being considered important in the international discussion over the Assange case.

Nevertheless, in Sweden lay judges are used in the judging of criminal-law cases. And, according to Swedish legislation, this is the  offence-typification implied in the accusations against Julian Assange. We have in Sweden District courts, Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Lay judges are used more extensively in the District courts.

Second important aspect: in Sweden lay judges are not assessors, they ARE JUDGING

The common understanding, or usual notion of “lay judge”, it refers to an individual assisting a judge in a trial, [4] meaning that these lay judges would have a purely “assessor” role. The Wikipedia article on the Judicial System of Sweden is not clear – or misgiving –  regarding this issue. Although it firmly states that these judges are only “assesors”, and that they are not used in civil-law cases, the article omitted saying that Swedish lay judges are instead used in criminal cases, and that their role is to judge.

So, even if the role of lay judges in other countries is commonly the one of assessor in civil-law cases, in Sweden however that IS NOT the case.

In such Swedish District courts, there are up to three lay judges in the court cases. They participate in the judging with the same judging prerogatives than the professional (career) judge/s. And this is the type of court that Julian Assange would be facing if prosecutors decide to take the case into court.

Third important aspect: Political affiliation DOES MATTER in the judging and verdict outcome

As statetd initially, “lay judges have a tendency to judge according to their political affiliation

There is a widespread error on that if a Swedish prosecutor do not have enough evidence will not present the case to court. From that assumption, long discussions have been conducted in international and Swedish forums examining the validity or presumably existence of “evidence material” from the part of the prosecutor’s side in the Assange case. These discussions aim to elucidate whether “there the prosecutor has enough material”, and trying to anticipate whether charges will be made or not, and thus the question of trial or not-trial. But the truth is, that ultimately, a prosecutor in Sweden has the privilege to present a case in court, regardless. Is the prosecutor’s side which would decide after own assessment whether the case “is worth” to be taken to court.

One consequence of this would be for Assange, that if this would happen – that is in under trial – he may be further subject of other (juridical) eventualities regarding prospective demands of extradition or “interrogations” by another country.

The equation “Low/absence of substantial evidence and political-minded judging”

Yet, the main concern in this scenario – the worst odds, according to precedent (see below the Beltrán case) – is if the absence of substantial evidence would lead that emphases are instead placed in circumstantial evidence, or “testimony evidence”. In this situation, what would be examined are subjective factors in relation with the case. In all this judgments the political factor is relevant to say the least, and also can be determinant. What other factors associated with the case? For instance:

In February 2011, referring to the Swedish case against Assange, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt  declared publicly: [5]

“I can only regret that women’s rights and status weighs that light regarding these types of issues, in comparison with other type of theories put forward.”

[”– Jag kan bara beklaga att kvinnors rätt och ställning väger så lätt när det gäller den här typen av frågor jämfört med andra typer av teorier som förs fram”].

Prime Minister Reinfeldt again, a year later, the 25 of January 2012 made similar interferences in the legal case, appealing of national sentiment in the sense that i sthe prestige of Swedish legislation in theses regards what is at stake. I have previously analyzed these declarations of Prime Minister in “ Swedish government using media to interfere in the legal process against Julian Assange“:

The program leader, journalist Andres Holmberg, asked finally Sweden’s Prime Minister:

– “Is it a problem for you Fredrik Reinfeldt, or for Sweden, that this type of descriptions emerges about Sweden, in the international press: A judicial banana republic?”

The Prime Minister of Sweden:

– “It is very often a method one uses, to try discrediting a country or a judicial system when one stands prosecuted (anklagad, again!) of a crime in other country.”

– “We have naturally to stand up for we have a functioning legal state and also we take very seriously prosecutions that have to do with rape because there are also ingredients aiming to diminish how we have developed, and stand for, a good legislation in this case.” [6]

Political appointed judges, that “have a tendency to judge according political affiliation” are most likely to follow the line of Sweden’s Prime Minister, on that this case against Assange is also a case of the political prestige of Sweden internationally, a mater of demonstrating how modern legislation we have on these issues.

And this  not to mention the Assange case as symbol for rigth-wing radical feminists, whose party comrades may be also in the conmposition of the lay judging team.


A precedent. The Beltrán case: In absence of hard evidence, judging guilty in the solely base of “finding the plaintiff’s story credible”

Lawyers Thomas Bodström and Claes Borgström (Bodström & Borgsträm Law Firm)

One of these cases was the sentence to prison against the Chilean political refugee Tito Beltran – also a worldwide celebrity as opera tenor – accused of rape on the basis of a Swedish woman’s declaration made nine years after the episode in reference. No evidence was needed. The lawyer of the woman-accuser who obtained the sentence was the social democratic politician and former minister of Justice Thomas Bodström, mentioned above. This politician is the partner of the law-firm Bodström & Borgström that nominally pursue the case against Julian Assange.

The verdictstated: “According to this court, we found the plaintiff’s story credible and that fully meets the requirements to form the basis for a conviction”. [7]

The lawyer defending the plaintiff was the social democratic politician and former minister of Justice Thomas Bodström. The “evidence” mentioned later in the verdict against Beltrán referred to declarations of two friends of the plaintiff which would “have heard” an account from the part of the plaintiff after the alleged happenings. Also in this case, it was not the plaintiff who have made a complaint to the police against Beltrán. It was another woman (Monica Dahlström-Lannes, known in Sweden as activist and campaigner  concerning sexual-offence cases) who after her own private investigations and interviews on the case filed the complaint to the police – nine years after!

Dahlström-Lannes was a board-member of the same organization, ECPAC, in which  the social democratic politician and former minister of Justice Thomas Bodström was also a board-member. However, Bodström denied in the court hearings that he knew Dahlström-Lannes.


Other democracy issues in the Swedish Lay Judges system

Lay judges in Sweden are an institution from the Middle ages. Such judges are supposed to represent the people, concretely, the people’s “sense” of justice in the courts. However, the first democratic paradox is that these judges ARE NOT elected by the people but instead designated separately by some political parties.

And in their turn, the political parties pickup the Lay Judges candidates from their party ranks. However, in spite of the population of Sweden being approximately nine millions (9 316 256), the total individuals affiliated to the Swedish political parties is only approximately a quart of a million (269 208).
This means that the population relevant for the “democratic” representation by these politically appointed lay judges is actual only less than the 2.9 percent of total Swedish population.
Since available figures for the political affiliations are from 2009, I have used in the statistical calculation the population figures of that same year. In fact, this difference is now increasing, as the population grows while individuals affiliated in political parties tends to diminish notably.

This in turn poses another “democratic” related problem, since such “elections” done in the Swedish political parties correspond in reality to a “selection”, a “co-optation” done by the top leading circles in such parties. in the best of cases this is done through  “Proposition boards” (called some times Valberednings grupp), also at top-levels in the parties hierarchies. In concrete:
A direct election of Lay Judges by the Swedish voters simply does not take place. That these judges “represent the people” it is simply not true. What they do represent instead is the political parties that have nominated them. 

Further, another problem such system has with “democracy”, is that only the political parties that have reached an arbitrarily stipulated statistical value which is decided by the ruling parties (nowadays the stipulated value is >4 percent of the voters). Important political parties such as The Pirate Party – which otherwise has representation in the European Parliament) has been deprived with such formula of forming part of the lay-judges selection club.

Another issue with regard to democracy, is that although these lay judges are supposed to represent the people at large in the Swedish courts, most of the lay judges are retired bureaucrats or else — of older age. In this sense they hardly wold represent the Swedish people, only a limited age cohort.

The above aspect is also significant for the final political equation at the courts, since people of older age tend to see issues – politics inclusive – in a different way that younger generations does (e.g. the novel Pirate Party).

What professional/career members of the Swedish Judiciary think on the Lay Judges system?

In a survey conducted by SvT among 675 career judges accepting to reply, only 28 percent had the opinion that the system of lay judges should be abolished. While 30 percent was negative to that lay judges are politically appointed. [6]

Some other important related observations about the Swedish legal system in the context of the “case Assange”
  • Sweden has a judiciary system in which judges participating in the courts are appointed by the political parties (there is not Jury-system in Sweden, neither exists in Sweden the institution of bail).
  • Sweden allows secret, “close-doors” trials. Particularly with regard to sexual-offences trials in which case secret trials is the most common form to be used in the Swedish system of justice.
  • The number of appeals in Sweden has been notably reduced after a law of 2008 (the so called EMR reform) devised to curve down the number of cases resulting on appealing at higher courts.
  • In the Swedish case against Assange the police investigators conducted interrogations without video-recording, sound-tape recording or other form of transcription.  This is an aggravating anomaly and which infringed clear standard proceedings as instructed by the Police Authority with regard to cases involved suspicions of rape.
  • The interrogation of one of the nominal accusers was performed by a police officer friend of the other nominal accuser.
  • The interrogation of Julian Assange could have very well have conducted in Sweden but the prosecutor chosen to issue an Interpol warrant what it made possible the fabrication of an extradition case.
  • The law-firm defending the accusers is co-owned by a politician member of the very same political group within the Swedish Social democratic party, Mr. Thomas Bodström (former Minister of Justice) and in which the accuser AA was at the time of the accusation the political secretary.
  • The actual lawyer appointed by the firm (the other co-owner of the law firm) is Mr. Claes Bogström, which, together with the prosecutor of the case Ms. Marianne Ny, and together with the former Minister of Justice and chairman of the Justice Committee of the Swedish Parliament Mr. Thomas Bodström participated in the study of the new legislation which radicalized the proceedings and penalties for sexual-offences in Sweden.
  • Mr. Thomas Bodström was the main politician – apart of the former Prime Minister Göran Persson – signalled around the agreements with CIA on the rendition of political refugees in Sweden to be transported to torture elsewhere. For that he was called upon the Swedish Constitutional Committee. The Swedish political parties however, as well as the mainstream media, did never really condemn such behaviour.


[1] Foreign Correspondent Andrew Fowler’s interview with lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Journalist/Publisher Julian Assange and lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. The interview has been recently aired by Youtube. Follow this link to see the interview.
[2] SvD Opinion, 20 Feb 2012 http://blog.svd.se/ledarbloggen/2012/02/20/straffade-eller-ej-%E2%80%93-namndemannen-bor-ifragasattas/

[3] “Politikerna som struntar i lagen”. Aftonbladet, 20 Feb 2012 http://www.aftonbladet.se/ledare/article14399246.ab

[4]  “Lay Judge”. Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lay_judge

[5] DN http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/reinfeldt-beklagade-negativ-bild-av-rattsvasendet

[6]  http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=1637&artikel=4928323
[7]  http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article11904361.ab

[8]  “RÅ: Nämndemannasystem bör förändras”. SvD 24 Jan 2012   http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/ra-namndemannasystem-bor-forandras_6794667.svd

*This text is a part of the analysis Sweden: POLITICALLY appointed lay judges to JUDGE Assange published in Professors blogg 21 February 2012

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