Philip Shenon at The Daily Beast:
Prosecutors in Sweden have withdrawn their warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, calling the rape charges against him unfounded. Still, a separate allegation of molestation remains. Philip Shenon talks to Assange’s supporters about his reaction to the charges.
Swedish prosecutors dropped rape allegations Saturday against the elusive founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, only hours after they issued an arrest warrant for him on the charges.
The prosecutors said on their website that the rape charges, which seemed to threaten the very existence of WikiLeaks given Assange’s central role in the whistleblowing website, were being dropped for lack of evidence.
At the same time, the prosecutors seemed to leave open the possibility that Assange was under investigation for other crimes in Sweden, a nation that had seemed on the verge a few days ago of becoming a new, permanent home for WikiLeaks. Assange had been in Sweden earlier this week.
Assange’s supporters struggled Saturday to track him down and ask him how he planned to defend himself against the rape and molestation charges that were first reported in a Swedish tabloid newspaper.
Assange, who leads a nomadic existence, mostly living in the homes of friends and supporters in several countries, communicates directly with news organizations and the public through the social-networking site Twitter, and he took to Twitter Saturday to defend himself.
Without revealing his whereabouts, he described the rape and molestations allegations as a “dirty trick.” The charges, he said, are “without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.” He added: “Needless to say, this will prove hugely distracting.” Before the rape charges were dropped, one of Assange’s closest supporters in Europe told The Daly Beast “I want to believe this is some sort of trick against Julian.”
Adrian Chen at Gawker:
Police originally issued an arrest warrant for 39-year-old Assange, an Australian citizen, on suspicion of rape and sexual harassment (“molestation” is the literal Google translation). Assange was in Sweden last week, seeking help from Sweden’s Pirate Party in hosting Wikileaks data.
Assange and Wikileaks took to Twitter, as is their style, to denounce the allegations. “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one.” As if to prove his point, Swedish police withdrew the warrant today, saying the rape suspicions are “unfounded,” according to the AP. However, the molestation/sexual harassment accusation still stands. (This charge won’t lead to an arrest warrant.)
This is suspicious timing for such a hiccup. Wikileaks made a splash recently with its Afghanistan War Diaries leak, and is currently locked in a tense standoff with the Pentagon over 15,000 unreleased classified Afghanistan war documents. Conspiracy alert! Did the Pentagon send a Predator drone over to Sweden to accuse Assange of rape and molestation!? Or, you know, maybe it was some boozy hook-ups gone awry. Either way, thank God: this Wikileaks thing has been lacking a sex angle for way too long.
The Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet has an interview with one of Assange’s two accusers, an unidentified 30-year-old woman. She tells Aftonbladet that the other alleged victim contacted her about an incident with Assange, and the two went to the police together last week.
The women and Assange met during his stay in Stockholm and have neither met him or each other before.
The woman in her thirties say that on her part, she was sexually assaulted or molested, but not rape.
The story begain this friday. Another woman contacted her and told of a similar but worse story. That woman is in her twenties.
The woman says that at first the sex was consensual, but turned non-consensual in both cases. She also refutes the idea that the Pentagon or any of Assange’s detractors are behind the accusations:
The conspiracy theories that are flooding the net at the moment are discarded by the woman
“The accusations against Assange are of course not staged by neither the Pentagon or anyone else. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl are with a man with a disturbed view of women and problems accepting a no”
Fun fact: Aftonblade is the Swedish tabloid which recently tapped Assange to write a bimonthly column. Something tells us this deal is off.
I’m in no way a supporter of what this fellow has done. But given the little that’s being reported, I can’t help but agree with him that the charges are disturbing. Welcome to the intelligence big leagues, Assange. I suspect you’re about to get knocked out of the park. Be very afraid. I suspect that, more than anything, is what the charges are meant to convey. That, and to provide grounds for your arrest.
I don’t think we can dismiss the possibility of a set up, but how would you convince the police to play along? Or getting a couple of women to lie for you and have them keep quiet about it is not an easy task, especially when you consider they would have to appear in court and carry the conspiracy for a considerable length of time.
I do not believe the US government would be behind any shenanigans, but I wouldn’t put it past some rogue elements to take it upon themselves to punish the leaker. We don’t know enough to even guess yet, so perhaps we should just contemplate the fate of someone who proved himself a publicity whore and may have gotten burned for it.
Considering news of the warrant just came out, it would seem that someone jumped the gun issuing it in the first place. I have almost no opinion concerning Assange,* but it doesn’t take one to state that a rape allegation is quite serious and one would like to think that law enforcement would have their act together in terms of issuing a warrant, especially regarding someone for whom said warrant will be international news.
It is unclear to me what “molestation” means in this context, as in an American legal context it makes one’s mind leap to child molestation, but the treatment in the AP story (and other stories I have heard to this point in the day) don’t seem to be treating it as such.
*And yes, I know that bloggers are allegedly supposed to have instant deep (and, of course, utterly correct) opinions about everything, I will reserve any definitive statements about Assange or even Wikileaks, as it is one of the things for which I only have passing information at the moment and therefore have not formed a fully informed opinion as yet.
UPDATE: James Fallows