Julian Assange is charged, there is no doubt about it

One reason the Julian Assange case is difficult to understand is because of errors in translation. Add to this willful misrepresentations, rumours and flat out lies. There is no doubt in my mind that Julian Assange is charged in the full English understanding of the term. Charges have been brought but he has not yet entered a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty”. The reason: he has fled Sweden to avoid entering a plea.

On numerous occasions we have heard Julian Assange say that he is not charged with any crime. For English speaking people that means Julian Assange will be detained by three Swedish courts without a charge. I can understand why so many English speaking people question Sweden’s legal system since it is unlawful to detain a person without a charge. In fact, this is also true even so in Sweden. The reason Julian Assange can claim that he is not charged with a crime is due to a simple but important error in translation. In this post I will give a proper translation so everybody will understand the legal situation in order to fully understand that Julian Assange is, in fact, charged.

The error in translation in this case started from very early on. Julian Assange’s lawyers looked in a dictionary and noticed that the word charge is translated into “åtala” in Swedish. What has happened since is just more people have looked into more dictionaries and seen the same thing. Groupthink at work. Everybody just looked in the wrong direction. It is correct that Julian Assange is detained but not yet “åtalad” in Sweden. Since he is not “åtalad” people believe he is not charged. I will show this is the error in translation.

If you use a dictionary when you are translating you will only get as good  a translation as the dictionary is. If the dictionary contains errors you get  errors in translation.

In order to properly translate legal terms you have to look at the legal procedure in one country and then compare it to the same (similar) legal procedure in another country. It is only when you know the context that you can make a proper translation. In this case, almost everybody has looked the wrong way, to the dictionary. I will point you in the right direction, to the procedures, and the error in translation will be clearly visible.

The examples below are simplified and are not strictly according to the letter of the law. I want to show the different parts of the procedures and what they are called in Swedish and English.

In England, as in Sweden, it is illegal to arrest and keep a person for an extended time without a charge. Normally when you are arrested you are charged within 24 hours or released. Does this mean as soon as you are arrested in England you are “åtalad”? No it does not. It is not correct to translate the word charged into “åtalad”. Charge has a much wider definition than “åtala”. “Åtala” actually means to formally charge, to indict. Knowing this we all understand that being arrested and charged in England does not mean being arrested and indicted in a court of law.

Let’s look at the procedure in Sweden using the Swedish words. You cannot be “anhållen” (arrested) without being ” misstänkt för brott” or “anklagad för brott”.(suspected of a crime or accused/charged with a crime). You cannot be “häktad” (detained) without being “misstänkt för brott” or “anklagad för brott”. The Swedish police are not allowed to arrest people and keep them for extended time without a charge, “en misstanke om brott eller en anklagelse om brott”. Just like in England. It is evident that charge in English is corresponding to “misstanke, anklagelse om brott” in Swedish.

Let’s look at a procedure in England. A person is accused of a crime. The police initiates an investigation. The person is interviewed. If suspicion increases he may be arrested and charged (on suspicion of a criminal offense). The investigation continues. Later the person might be detained or released on bail. Further investigation. If there is not enough evidence the charges are dropped, the person is cleared of suspicion. On the other hand, if there is enough evidence to suspect the person is guilty of having committed a crime the prosecutor will make charges and then the plea will be entered at some future point. A decision to indict may follow. As one can see, in the English procedure the decision to indict comes at a late stage, after the investigation. Until the person is cleared or indicted he is just charged.

In fact, the procedure is very similar in Sweden. A person is “anklagad, misstänkt” for a crime. The police starts to investigate. The person is interviewed. If suspicion increases he may be “anhållen and misstänkt”. Investigation goes on. Then the person is “häktad and misstänkt”. The investigation continues. If there is not enough evidence “avskrivs misstankarna”, the person is cleared of suspicion. On the other hand, if there is enough evidence to suspect the person is guilty of having committed a crime the person is investigated further. It is not until the suspect in a final interview is asked for his opinion of the charges that the prosecutor will make a decision if a person is to be “åtalad”, indicted. The decision to indict comes at a late stage, after the investigation (förundersökning), just like in England. Until a person is “åtalad” he is just “misstänkt” (suspected).

As shown the procedures in England and Sweden are similar. In both jurisdictions a person has to be charged in order to be arrested and detained. We just use different words. English and Swedish words. If we make a proper translation there are no problems. Problems arise only with errors in translation. Translating charge into “åtala” is such an error.

If Swedes would look at the English legal procedure using incorrect translations they would be disgusted to find that everybody that is arrested is always “åtalad”, indicted. As soon you are accused of a crime the police makes an arrest and you end up in court, what a horrible system. People familiar with the English system and the English meaning of a charge sees nothing wrong in the procedures.

Problems in the Swedish language

In a previous post I have shown that Swedish is a very indirect and implicit language. More like a code language. We don’t say what we mean, we don’t use the proper words. We let words represent a different concept than their true meaning and we assume other Swedes understand what we mean. Since we don’t use the proper words it is very difficult for foreigners to understand what we really mean. It is evident in this case. Arrested and charged should be translated into “anhållen” and “anklagad”. Now we use the words “anhållen” och “misstänkt”. (misstänkt is suspected). I fully understand that it is difficult for English speaking people to understand that Swedes say suspected and mean charged. The worst part is that Swedish people don’t understand it themselves.

“Anklaga” in Swedish is translated into charge or accuse. So we should use the word “anklaga”. But then we end up in another typical Swedish language problem. The word “anklaga” has many synonyms. One is “åtala” (formally charge, indict, prosecute). My understanding of Swedish is that this is absolutely wrong. In order to make “anklaga” synonymous with “åtala” the word has to appear in a context. “Anklaga i domstol” (charge/accuse in a court of law) is synonymous with “åtala”.

What does all of this mean for Julian Assange?

There is no doubt that in Sweden Julian Assange is arrested in absentia and charged (accused of rape, unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation). Julian Assange has not yet been asked to enter a plea. Saying anything else is incorrect based on an error in translation.

Does the error in translation in any way change any of the verdicts in this case? No. The English Judges have had an intuitive understanding of the legal situation even if they were fed rubbish translations from the defence.

I am very surprised that no one yet has pointed out this simple but very important error in translation. It is beyond my imagination that no one at Åklagarmyndigheten (Prosecutors’ Office) have not been able to sort this out in the two years of legal wrangling that has been going in in front of an astonished international audience. And where are the Swedish Governments legal experts? I am also surprised that the legal experts around the world haven’t figured it out. My hat is off to English Judges. There is something in a wig after all.

I am not a lawyer but I have verified the above with a Swedish Judge and other legal experts. I have been involved in sales most of my life. Trying to figure out mostly what Swedish people really mean when they use strange words and concepts. Maybe it helps in understanding that the Swedish legal language is not that clear after all and that there is one serious error in translation in this case.

An endnote in Swedish.

Anklaga har många synonymer:
beskylla, förebrå, klandra, tillvita, ge skulden, utpeka, ange.

Sen finns också följande synonymer som jag anser är felaktiga:
åtala, åklaga, sakföra, stämma.

De senare orden är endast synonymer om de förekommer i ett annat sammanhang:
anklaga i domstol.

Att det är på detta sättet är enkelt att förstå. Jag kan anklaga väldigt många juridiskt kunniga att de inte kan göra en korrekt översättning av charge och charged.Jag klandrar dem, jag förebrår dem, jag utpekar dem och jag ger dem skulden för att det blivit mycket fel i fallet Assange. Men jag åtalar dem inte.

19 thoughts on “Julian Assange is charged, there is no doubt about it

  1. Its strange then the spokesperson for the Swedish prosecution said that it has yet to be determined if charges are filed depending on the final interview with JA.

    BTW in the UK and in the rest of Europe (even though there are 2 different legal systems)  a defendent has the right to see all evidence against him after being charged which JA has not. Thats LONG before he has to enter a plea. Eg. BM has yet to enter a plea and has been charged for almost a year.

  2. As far as I know there is a detention hearing before a Swedish court 4 days after the arrest. It determines wether the suspect will be held in prison or released (on bail). No plea has to be made at that stage.

  3. The claims made by the author of how Assange has been charged with a crime in this article is apparently intellectually fraudulent.

    Any notion/idea/concept of “being charged” is here not, and could never be, a specific metahpor laden with meaning, but “charge” or “charged” is instead being used as a metonym and is thus without a point and has no meaning.

    The talk about synonyms is ultimately pointless and without merit, having no significance or justification with regard to law.

  4. up is up , down is down , charge is charge , arrest is arrest , indicted is indicted , they’re the same but different because they’re the same in a different kind of way , because we joke , but they’re the same ultimately in a different kind of way,,,,,, what kind of gibberish is this ? this has got to be a joke , it sounds like guy that had to write this balderdash was on the point of a complete and utter Schizophrenic meltdown

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  6. This whole debate on ‘charged’ / ‘not charged’ is yesterday’s news.

    The first attempt at an EAW failed because the reason given was that Assange was required for questioning/interview/interrogation/a_cosy_chat_over_coffee_and_bulla.

    An interview is precisely what will happen once/if Assange gets to Sweden.

    Whether or not someone can come back after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert to proclaim that they have examined the entrails of lizards and determined that Assange has been ‘somethinged’ is totally irrelevant now.
    It might have been relevant way back when UK courts were evaluating the EAW.
    UK courts have ordered the extradition. No appeals are available. The train has left the station.

    The reality is that Assange is “as good as charged”. This is not a legal term, although it might probably translate into a legal term in a galaxy far far away – where they call a spade a spade.

    Marianne Ny in a submission to the UK courts put it this way:
    “10. Once the interrogation is complete. it may be that further questions need to be put to witnesses or the forensic scientists. Subject to any matters said by him, which undermine my present view that he should be indicted, an indictment will be lodged with the court thereafter.”

    She said that her view at the time was that he should be indicted.
    But..
    She then said that an indictment would be *subject to any matters said by him*

    Clearly, if we are to accept what she says, then if Assange is (some form of) ‘charged’, then a more correct description is that he is ‘provisionally charged’. He is ‘charged’ “subject to any matters said by him”.

    That would be a correct Due Process way of describing the situation.
    Ny *says* that she can envisage an outcome in which Assange is not indicted depending on what he says in the interview(s).

    That is probably more theoretical than practical.
    If Ny actually decided not to indict, she would need a very steady nerve to make the announcement.

    At this stage, after two years of drama under a world spotlight – culminating in diplomatic crisis and threats of embassy invasion – she will almost certainly pass the entire responsibility for any ‘not guilty’ to the court.

    This gives rise to the practical/real status for Assange to be “as good as charged”.

    Ny might survive without huge embarrassment..
    The trial would be held in secret – apparently unless *all* parties wish otherwise. Realistically, the thing will leak like sieve.
    There is no jury.
    There will be one legally trained judge and three lay ‘judges’ that have been appointed by political parties. The closest one gets to a “Jury of one’s peers” is ‘Three party hacks’.
    It’s justice Jim, but not as we know it.
    It is not impossible that Assange’s realistic status is actually “as good as guilty”.

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  8. To cut this long story short, the equivocal title contains the clue giving away this heavily tossed word-salad. If it were true, why not just state the fact “Julian Assange has been charged”, then link to some verifiable details in the legal record, such as a .PDF of charge sheets issued to the defendant?

    Because it has not happened … yet, and that will remain the position until such times as he is ever actually handed over and the interrupted process in Sweden resumed. Wishful thinking or impatient estimations of 100% likelihood cannot alter the past.

    By analogy, the confusion created here is the same as pretending the following two statements are equivalent – “JA is guilty” and “JA has been found guilty at trial” – one is simply an opinion or prediction, the other a definite statement of a legal fact already recorded.

    The author should be pretty embarrassed at having posted this unnecessary and misleading contrivance. As for his “Swedish Judge and other legal experts” who apparently have neither the time nor interest to lay out a clear and coherent argument with their names tacked on, this appeal to unverifiable authority allegedly contradicting the legal record rings extremely hollow.

    • Let me say this again. In the Swedish criminal procedure there is nothing like “decision to charge”. Do you understand?

      Since there is no “decision to charge” there are no charge sheets. Understand?

      Since there are no charge sheets it is impossible to link to charge sheets. Understand?

      What has to be established is when someone is to be considered to be charged. If you read the article again you may understand that the “heavily tossed word-salad” is not in the article but much much closer to you.

  9. >> Let me say this again. In the Swedish criminal procedure there is nothing like “decision to charge”.

    1. What do you then call the point where the prosecutor, being satisfied that the matter complained of has been sufficiently substantiated by the completed preliminary investigations, elects to therefore send the casefile further for trial before a Court?

    >> Since there is no “decision to charge” there are no charge sheets.

    2. How then is the news formally communicated to the person against whom the complaint was made that “You are no longer merely a suspect, you now stand accused of crime X and must appear on date Y at court Z for the proceedings.”

    >> What has to be established is when someone is to be considered to be charged.

    3. What then is the earliest date on which you would consider JA to have been charged and what evidence supports that conclusion?

    • UNF,

      I know it is difficult for a foreigner to understand the Swedish criminal process since you cannot translate the terms we use and make sense of it. So you ignorance is excused. I don’t know your nationality so I don’t know how to best explain the concepts of Swedish procedures to your criminal procedures.

      I assume you are English. I note that you seem to be unfamiliar with the English criminal procedure as well. The reason I say so you is it seems like you use the legal terms in an incorrect way.

      1) In my earlier reply to you I thought you got it. I will repeat it. Marianne Ny puts it like this: According to Swedish law, a formal decision to indict may not be taken at the stage that the criminal process is currently at. It is called “åtala”, indict. Or formally charged. Being indicted it is also called stand charged.

      2) I criminal procedure starts normally with a complaint. The police/prosecutor will determine the level of suspicion. If there is enough suspicion they will want to talk to you. You either get a mail and you are asked to come in for an interview or you are picked up in your home or at work. If you are suspected on reasonable grounds they will tell you so when you are interviewed. The police cannot hold you for interview more than 6 hours. Then they have either to release you or arrest you.

      The prosecutor may have decided to arrest you in absentia suspected on reasonable grounds. Then you are picked up to bu police and interviewed. You cannot be arrested for more than three and a half days. They either have to get a court order to detain you or release you.

      There is no “decision to charge”. That is why it is important to understand that you are considered charged with a crime when the police suspect you on reasonable grounds. There is no decision. But when you are arrested on reasonable grounds then you know for sure that you are considered charged. So it is difficult to tell normally when a person is “considered charged”.

      3) In Julian’s case it is easy. 20 august. He was arrested in absentia for rape and molestation on probable cause on that day. On 21st rape suspicion was was dropped and so the arrest order. Molestation remained. So he was in fact still charged. On 1st September he was suspected of more crimes. He was “charged with more crimes”. On 27 September 14:15 he was arrested again. On 18 November he was detained by a court order.

      I have realized that many people cannot tell the difference between charge and formally charge. People don’t understand the term charges brought.

      I will get a confirmation from the Prosecutors Office that Julian Assange is considered charged with crimes. We are in the end face of preliminary investigation (another incomprehensible term since there is no final investigation). Please remember I did not invent those phony words. I want them changed so everybody would immediately understand what they mean.

  10. *For me it is a lot less complicated and difficult than you keep insisting – here’s why and correct if wrong:

    1. A complaint is made to Police

    2. Preliminary investigation (PI) is begun

    3. If the suspect is not cooperating/locatable the Police/Prosecutor can apply to Court for arrest warrant (in abstentia) to compel attendance at PI

    4. Police arrest suspect for questioning; PI continues

    5. Once PI complete, suspect is either formally charged (in writing, indicted) by Public Prosecutor to propel case to trial before Court, or is released and the case closed.

    6. The crucial point of difference here between Swedish and British law is #3 – in Sweden an arrest warrant can be obtained in order to compel a suspect to be present at the PI questioning, whereas in Britain a person cannot be arrested merely for questioning, only if there is reasonable grounds to think they are guilty of the offence charged is a warrant (or summons) issued to attend Court and answer the charge.

    7. In both cases the charge should only happen when sufficient evidence to convict has been gathered. In Britain there is no legal procedure to compel the suspect’s participation in the police investigation, whereas in Sweden there obviously is.

    To conclude:

    8. JA has not been charged in Sweden – he is a suspect under investigation and an arrest warrant has been issued in furtherance thereof. The Swedish process is stuck at waiting for #4 above.

    9. The Swedish equivalent of ‘being charged’ is at the end of the PI, in other words it is the formal written decision that the case will procede to be prosecuted in court. From there on in the suspect has become the defendant.

    • UNF

      I put my comments in under your points so it is easier to understand, I hope.

      2. Preliminary investigation (PI) is begun
      The investigation is started because the police/prosecutor has at least reasonable ground for the suspicion a crime is committed. This is actually the point when somebody is to be “considered charged”.

      Investigations are not started without a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is guilty. It is illegal to start an investigations without a proper cause. Sweden is not a police state.

      3. If the suspect is not cooperating/locatable the Police/Prosecutor can apply to Court for arrest warrant (in abstentia) to compel attendance at PI
      This is not correct, but let’s leave it. This statement is not important for our discussion.

      4. Police arrest suspect for questioning; PI continues
      The police CANNOT arrest someone merely for questioning. It just doesn’t happen. This is a myth. Or as I prefer to call it a “zombie fact”. It keeps reappearing again and again no matter how many times I show it is not true.

      5. Once PI complete, suspect is either formally charged (in writing, indicted) by Public Prosecutor to propel case to trial before Court, or is released and the case closed.
      Correct. In Sweden the indictment is at the end of the investigation just as in England.

      6. The crucial point of difference here between Swedish and British law is #3 – in Sweden an arrest warrant can be obtained in order to compel a suspect to be present at the PI questioning, whereas in Britain a person cannot be arrested merely for questioning, only if there is reasonable grounds to think they are guilty of the offence charged is a warrant (or summons) issued to attend Court and answer the charge.
      This is where you make the mistake. A warrant for arrest is never granted for questioning. Never ever. It can only be granted if there is reasonable grounds to think the suspect is guilty of the offence charged. It is the same in English law. This idea of arrested for questioning is just something Julian’s lawyers made up. IT SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE.

      7. In both cases the charge should only happen when sufficient evidence to convict has been gathered. In Britain there is no legal procedure to compel the suspect’s participation in the police investigation, whereas in Sweden there obviously is.
      I think you mean formally charge, indict. There is no way in Sweden to force a suspect to take part in an investigation, only if there is reasonable grounds to think they are guilty of the offence charged.

      To conclude:

      8. JA has not been charged in Sweden – he is a suspect under investigation and an arrest warrant has been issued in furtherance thereof. The Swedish process is stuck at waiting for #4 above.
      JA is “considered charged” in Sweden. The process is stuck at 5, in order to complete the investigation the suspect has to be presented the evidence against him and he is asked to enter a plea. And it is not until the suspect has entered a plea of not guilty that the prosecutor can make a decision to indict.

      9. The Swedish equivalent of ‘being charged’ is at the end of the PI, in other words it is the formal written decision that the case will proceed to be prosecuted in court. From there on in the suspect has become the defendant.
      You are incorrect. At the end of a preliminary investigation a person is indicted, formally charged. There is no decision to charge early in the process in Sweden as in England. I understand this might be difficult to understand.

      In Sweden a person is “considered charged” when the police suspects you on reasonable grounds that you have committed a crime and they start to act. That is normally at the same time as an investigation is started.

  11. I wonder how JA could have been arrested in absentia before the interview with S.W. was completed and BEFORE AA had been interviewed if an arrest for the purpose of an interrogation is illegal. Clearly there had NOT been a finished investigation at that stage-merely an accusation by 1 woman wto ANY further examination of the evidence.

    • The police get reports that two women were sexually assaulted, may two raped. The suspect (probable cause) is a foreigner with no known address. Likely to leave the country. It is the police’s and prosecutors duty to arrest the suspect before he leaves. If it was a Swedish citizen with a known adress (low flight risk) the police can make interviews before deciding what to do.

      It is similar to case like this. A woman in the street screams “My purse my purse” as man runs away. A police standing by runs after and catches the man. After catching an investigation is started. If the police had investigated the case first finding out the color of the, what’s inside, where the woman lived etc it is not likely the thief would be caught. There is a risk that the police catches the wrong man. Normally that is sorted out.

      Which one of examples don’t you understand?

  12. Ru claiming that to be suspected of a crime means to be charged? I very much doubt that. Compare that to the BM case (common law system) who was first suspected, then quickly charged for the CM video+charged with various other crimes months later. It took almost another year before BM was indicted and asked to plea which he refused.

    • Please understand the words don’t mean what you think. It is error in translation.

      Common law simplified
      1. Suspect
      2. Charged with a crime on either reasonable ground or probable cause
      3. Charges brought entering a plea
      4. Indictment
      5. Trial

      Swedish law
      1. Misstänkt (suspect)
      2. Misstänkt skäligen eller på sannolika skäl (suspect reasonable or probable cause)
      3. Förhör och fråga om hur misstänkte ställer sig till anklagelsen
      4. Åtal (Indictment)
      5. Trial

      In common law 2 and 3 are formal procedures. In Sweden informal procedure. That is why 2 in England is called charged and 2 in Sweden is called “considered charged”.

      Ru does not claim that to be suspected of a crime means to be charged?
      Suspected of a crime on reasonable grounds or probable cause.

      All this is based on European Convention Human Rights

      Since Julian is arrested in absence suspected on probable cause he is “considered charged”.

  13. David Allen Green is on record that Assange has been interviewed by the Swedish police about all the allegations. he is quite delusional.

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