Was Julian Assange free to leave Sweden?

Lately I’ve been asked by many Assangeistas why I was a witness for Julian Assange in February 2011 since now I am critical to Julian Assange. It is very simple. Being a witness is not being a bought megaphone. Being a witness is not about being a supporter. A trial is not a high school popularity contest or a football game. It is about verifiable facts and circumstances. And proper process. Being a witness is about telling the truth about facts you know. On this blog I have been telling the truth since I started in May 2010. I will continue to do so even if it makes Julian Assange and his followers angry.

“I was free to leave the country”

On a number of occasions we have heard Julian Assange say that  he was free to leave Sweden on 27 September 2010. Recently documents have surfaced that shows these statements to be false. Before we deal with them lets listen to how Julian puts it in an interview with BBC’s John Humphrys from 21 December 2010.

Transcript according to BBC:

Q: Why won’t you go back to Sweden?

JA: I have been back. I was there for some five weeks after these initial allegations were made. They were dropped within 24 hours of them first being made. The most senior prosecutor in Stockholm reviewed them and they were dropped. Then politician Claes Borgstrom became involved, other forces became involved and the case, the investigative part of the case, was taken up again. We waited some four/five weeks to be interviewed, so I could put my side of this case forward, and that did not happen.

Q: But it has now.

JA: It did not happen, and then I asked: “OK, I have things to do, I had only planned to be in Sweden for one week, it’s time to leave. Is there any problem with that?” For the first three weeks, the Swedish prosecution refused to answer whether it was ok to leave or not. So caught there in limbo. Finally, grudgingly admitted that there was no reason to keep me there. And at that stage I went about my normal course of work. And then they say they want another interview, fine. There’s plenty ways to do that. So why can’t those things be done?

Q: Why can’t you go back to Sweden?

JA: I don’t need to go back to Sweden.

Q: You do because the law says you must.

JA: Well no, the law says that I also have certain rights. I do not need to go and speak to random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat and won’t do it in any other standard way.

Q: But they don’t just want to have a chat, do they?

JA: No, they do.

Q: That rather belittles what this is all about. Very serious allegations have been made. It puzzles a lot of people that you’re not saying: “Yes, I want to go to deal with these serious allegations, I will go anywhere they want me to go.”

JA: I have already spoken to them.

What is the truth?

In this interview Julian Assange says “For the first three weeks, the Swedish prosecution refused to answer whether it was ok to leave or not.” As far as I know no questions about Julian Assange leaving was ever put to the prosecutor at this time. Julian Assange makes this up.

Björn Hurtig was appointed Julian Assange’s second lawyer on 8 September 2010.  Immediately he called the prosecutor and asked to have his client interviewed. Her words were to the effect, “Not right now”, meaning he would be interviewed later. During this conversation there were no talks about Julian Assange leaving Sweden.

On 14 September in an e-mail Björn Hurtig asked the prosecutor to reveal the whole case file. All complaints, interviews, all witness-statements,  even including possible papers from SÄPO (Swedish Security Service).

He also asked:
“Julian Assange has urgent business in other countries. Because of this, I ask if there is any hindrance against him leaving the country for a short time, are there any force measures against him? Is he, for example, arrested in his absence?”

The following day, 15 September, Marianne Ny replied that there were no force measures hindering Julian Assange leaving the country for a short period. She also informed Björn Hurtig that unfortunately one of the investigators was sick so the investigation had been delayed.

Was Julian free to leave sweden? Absolutely not!

On 15 September Julian was not scheduled for an interview but on the 21st he was. The date was set for the 23rd, (new information, more in later post.) Since Julian was uncontactable that interview had to be canceled and a new date was set for the 28th. Still Julian was uncontactable as Björn Hurtig informed the prosecutor in the morning of the 27th.

Julian Assange left on 27 September on the 17:20 flight for Berlin. He did not contact his lawyer once between 21 September and before he left. Not once. He did not make one check to see if it was ok that he left. The reason given was that Julian Assange was receiving death threats and these threats prevented him contacting his lawyer. A fanciful but unconvincing defence.

How can we understand Julian Assange’s behavior in late September? One that has an educated opinion is Judge Riddle. He wrote in his judgment 24 February 2011:

I have not heard from Mr Assange and do not know whether he had been told, by any source, that he was wanted for interrogation before he left Sweden. I do not know whether he was uncontactable from 21st – 29th September and if that was the case I do not know why. It would have been a reasonable assumption from the facts (albeit not necessarily an accurate one) that Mr Assange was deliberately avoiding interrogation in the period before he left Sweden. Some witnesses suggest that there were other reasons why he was out of contact. I have heard no evidence that he was readily contactable.

It is not necessary for me to determine for current purposes whether Mr Assange deliberately fled the country to avoid further proceedings. That has not been specifically alleged. What is clear however is that he has not made himself available for interview in Sweden.

Conclusion

The more information that becomes available in this case it is evident that the prosecutors of Sweden have been very nice to Julian Assange. They did not treat him as they would have treated a normal suspect. For some reason they did not use the normal force measures that are used in cases like this, immediate arrest.

It is also evident that the prosecutors and Julian Assange’s own lawyer were of the opinion that Julian Assange would show up for an interview in order to clear his name.

Julian Assange has never been cleared of suspicions and he has never been “free” to leave Sweden. The prosecutors were just kind to let him run his business with a minimum of interference.

The prosecutors made a serious mistake when they trusted Julian Assange. They are not the only ones. The people that offered bail money made similar mistakes. They have to pay for their mistakes now according to a verdict in Westminister Magistrates’ Court.

15 thoughts on “Was Julian Assange free to leave Sweden?

  1. Not exactly true. I heard the spokesperson for the Swedish prosecution authority say that it was not possible to keep JA from leaving the country because the (at the time) remaining allegation of misconduct was too minor (to take away is passport).

  2. After.that. If it was possible to arrest him what has stopped the SW pros.from doing so? She certainly wasn`t acting out of pure kindness. PS: an active arrest warrant would have made it impossible for him to leave Sweden via airport.

    • From 1 September it was possible to arrest Julian Assange. He was arrested 14:15 on 27 September since he did not show up for the planned interviews. He managed to get out just in time.

      It is evident that the prosecutors have been very kind to Julian Assange until late October when they realized that Julian Assange’s word means nothing. A similar experience as the English courts and the people paying for his bail have had.

  3. “He was arrested 14:15 on 27 September since he did not show up for the planned interviews. He managed to get out just in time.”

    Göran: Julian’s flight left Arlanda at 17:25. If he was arrested at 14:15 it seems strange that he wasn’t stopped more than three hours later as he was leaving the country. Do you have any theories why?

    • I do not have any theories why Julian Assange wasn’t stopped at Arlanda on the 27th of September. I do not have enough information yet.

      I know that the arrest was kept secret. What that really means I don’t know. Maybe it means the arrest details was not communicated to border police. If so, a secret arrest is somewhat of a toothless action.

      As it seems to me with the information I now have the prosecutors have been very considerate in this case. Normally a person in a similar situation would have been arrested and detained while the investigation would go on. The reason this did not happen was most likely due to the enormous media attention.

  4. An arrest warrant that was kept secret from the border police even though the Swedish pros. KNEW about JA`s wish to leave the country for business? How ridiculous is that?

  5. *Can’t you (and your wikiwatcher friends) do anything else in your life than snooping after Julian Assange? I’m really interested. Your blog should be about “consent” and you haven’t written a thing about it, it’s amazing. Julian Assange is not so important as you might think. It’s almost like an obsession. Think about it, please

  6. *You want to give the impression that he fled the country, but another journo confirms that he had a planned meeting in Berlin that was planned months before. When it comes to the “secret” arrest in absence, protocols from the 1st arrest-attempt shows that the respons-time from the prosecutor to the border police was approx 25 min in handling time, so with over 3 hrs to go, it is a mystery, and also to be known, even if it was secret – the border patrol always get the arrest-info when the suspect is of another nationality.

    • You are referring to Stefania Maurizi, the Italian journalist Julian Assange met in Berlin. No matter how long in advance her meeting with Julian Assange was planned it does not change things. Julian Assange got permission to leave Sweden for a short time meaning he should come back. He did not come back. Judge Riddle’s opinion is “It would have been a reasonable assumption from the facts (albeit not necessarily an accurate one) that Mr Assange was deliberately avoiding interrogation in the period before he left Sweden.”

      The first arrest, 20 August, was not an arrest in secret. So you cannot use documentation from the first arrest in order to interpret the second arrest.

      Julian Assange managed to get out of Sweden before he was arrested. He did so in order to avoid interrogation. He did not go back even though he was scheduled to appear at a seminar on 6 October and a demonstration on 9 October. True facts.

  7. Here is another true fact: JA offered to be interviewed in the UK several times which would have been legal under the MLA but which the Swedish prosecutor refused without giving any concrete reason (according to the spokeswoman of the Swedish pros.authority).

  8. No – you still twist the facts again.

    Julian never got any permission to leave, he´s lawyer checked with the prosecutor if he was forced to stay, and in the start of september there was no charges agains´t him, adding this to his lawyers earlier writings of a interrogation Julian went ahead with his meetings in other countries as he been in Sweden for a extra 4 weeks due to this process.

    The system with arrest-warrants only varies in which departments thats gets involved depending of it´s status, the message-system does not change, only the receiving points do, so we can therefore calculate that the border police would get the info in approx 25 minutes, from the time that the clerk at the prosecutor office writes out the warrant, and as it was secret only specific departments got this message-that should include the border patrol, but for a unknown reason-it did not.

    And finally there is a pretty good reason that he did not came back, as he got info early in october before the 6th that there was a secret arrest-warrant issued in his name, you have yourself stated the arrest as issued 27/9 at 14:15hrs, his originally plan to come back on the 9 or the 6th of october was therefore scrapped for a darn good reason.

  9. Pingback: A Damp Round Up Of World News « Soupy One

  10. *It is a reasonable assumption that JA could not have booked
    a flight out of Sweden to Berlin departing 27 September 2010 without the
    Swedish intelligence services knowing about it. It is also a reasonable
    assumption that the same Swedish intelligence services would have known about the
    secret arrest warrant issued at 14.15, the same afternoon. 

    I therefore draw the conclusion that the Swedish
    intelligence services intended that the arrest warrant became operative once JA
    was outside Sweden. 

  11. I guess the UN legal experts, you know the guys who spend their whole lives studying cases like this completely disagree with you. Sweden by it’s refusal to abide by the UN Panel for Arbitrary Detention places itself with those bastions of democracy Egypt and Uzbekistan. Next time a Swede is arbitrarily locked up in some foreign hellhole do not be surprised when you have your decision to ignore this ruling thrown back in your face.

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