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.
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.
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.