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Legal myths about the Assange extradition (newstatesman.com)
112 points by gadders on Aug 20, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments



I don't want to be a tinfoil hat conspiracy nut and make unsubstantiated claims here, so I'm a bit hesitant to voice these thoughts.

But legal issues or not: You need to have blind trust in the well-meaning efforts of national governments to believe that there aren't larger forces at work here than Swedish prosecutors wanting to charge Assange with rape. This is not the kind of high-profile violent crime that would lead to an international manhunt through Interpol. It makes me angry when the newspapers keep parroting that "Assange is wanted in Sweden for rape". Obviously this isn't the heart of the issue. Assange is wanted by the most powerful country in the world for revealing military secrets. This is what is really going on, but not many newspapers are as willing to spell this out explicitly.

This is what the "Assange supporters" in this case are saying. Assange is completely justified in fearing extradition to the US, especially since such a small criminal allegation (I'm sorry, but the word "rape" in this case doesn't imply a grave violent offence) has turned into an international manhunt against Assange. I have huge problems believing that the rape charges are anything but a pretext. In the interest of gauging people's opinions, does anyone disagree with this particular point?

Additionally, regardless of what lawyers are saying about the specifics of this case, extraditions are largely politically motivated. There is no central international body or law system governing cases like these, so the choices are usually left to politicians. And really, Sweden has a pretty bad track record with regards to looking after US interests. The case against The Pirate Bay is another good contemporary example of this. The Swedish government could guarantee that Assange wouldn't be extradited, but it would make them look bad in the eyes of the US and others. So clearly they won't.

[Edit: Spelling]


The Swedish government cannot guarantee Assange won't be extradited; it falls on the Swedish judicial system to do that.

Your comment again puts forward the idea that the political forces aligned against Assange are so great that no amount of critical thinking, due process, or countervailing concern for the rights of victims can apply: it is, to use your word, "obvious" that the case isn't about "rape", but about an undocumented (and undisclosed) but nevertheless clear and immediate effort to haul Assange to the US and try him with espionage. No court in Europe seems to view the situation that way.

Regardless, that concern has very little to do with this particular article, which catalogs and rebuts specific "misconceptions" about the legal issues faced by Assange. Those rebuttals are either compelling or they're not. What do you think about them?


> Your comment again puts forward the idea that the political forces aligned against Assange are so great that no amount of critical thinking, due process, or countervailing concern for the rights of victims can apply: it is, to use your word, "obvious" that the case isn't about "rape", but about an undocumented (and undisclosed) but nevertheless clear and immediate effort to haul Assange to the US and try him with espionage. No court in Europe seems to view the situation that way.

This is naive, I've seen terrorists harshly condemned in France with few direct proofs, just because the judicial body knows that it's in the common interest to do it. And nobody complained about, not even me.

Moreover on the US front I think the case is definitively tainted due to the abusive treatment of Pvt. Manning. When states have great confidence in their system and laws are above all, things like Manning's treatment don't happen in the first place. So imo you cannot overrule the argument of "political forces aligned against Assange" just because you say so, or because EU, US are the "biggest" democracies. They have flaws too.


The logic here is, Because [THE US MISTREATED BRADLEY MANNING], therefore [SWEDEN WILL NOT FOLLOW EUROPEAN LAW WITH REGARDS TO EXTRADITION]. Non sequitur.


>The logic here is, Because [THE US MISTREATED BRADLEY MANNING], therefore [SWEDEN WILL NOT FOLLOW EUROPEAN LAW WITH REGARDS TO EXTRADITION]. Non sequitur.

The US punitive pre-trial treatment of Manning indicates that the matter is of sufficient concern that they're willing to endure international criticism for the sake of making an example out of him. If Sweden will do America's bidding over a commercial copyright matter, it seems quite possible they will also do so for what the US characterizes as a national security matter. As we saw with the MegaUpload incident the US doesn't let little things like the law stand in the way of it defending its interests.

The fact that the UK is flirting with violating the Vienna Convention over a "rape" case says a lot about this situation. In the 80's Libyans shot a British policewoman dead from their embassy and the UK didn't raid the embassy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Yvonne_Fletcher


No, that's a straw man. The logic is: because the U.S. has a track record of punishing people deemed by the executive branch as threats to national security without due process of law (up to and including summary execution of its own citizens without so much as a formal charge -- e.g. Anwar Al Awlaki) it is not unreasonable for Assange to suppose that he might also be subject to such treatment if he happens to fall under the physical control of the U.S. or one of its vassal states. IMHO this fear is not entirely unjustified.


But then the question becomes: why would he be more vulnerable in Sweden than in the UK? The linked article argues that he is more vulnerable to extradition to the US in the UK. I buy that argument. What is your argument that he would be more vulnerable in Sweden?


There is an opportunity cost in the US attacking Assange. It's pretty clear that they couldn't "just do it": international condemnation would be huge. So they have to discredit him first; once he's "fallen" and not under the spotlight, then it will be much easier.

Extraditing him now, from the UK, would be seen as a brazen attack on civil liberties, press freedom and whistleblowing, hitting front-pages hard. Extraditing him after he's already been convicted by another country on character-smearing charges would be a page-ten item. (Also, it's an electoral year in the US, and Obama has enough problems with his own base as it is.)

To be honest, their current strategy is working wonders: the entirety of mainstream press (and not just them, even people who should know better like Amnesty International) has clearly decided he's a twat and does not deserve being defended. They are now covering these proceedings as a soap-opera in which he's a delirious dostoevskjian character running like a headless chicken. It doesn't seem to matter that a (idiotic) British government is so angered that is threatening to destroy the holiest diplomatic principle of them all.

Even assuming Assange is guilty, the current position of the Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon. William Hague (Conservatives) is so appallingly overboard that either he's a complete nutter/idiot/incompetent hack (which he might as well be, to be fair, despite his first-class grammar-school education), or there's more to this story than a common case of rape.


Yours, olifante's and others' arguments for why Assange is more vulnerable in Sweden, as far as I can tell, are basically: "because I can concoct a scenario in which it is so." That is, it's based on speculation, not evidence.

In other words, it's a standard conspiracy theory.


So the most scandalous threat to basic principles of international diplomacy in 25 years, put in writing, is not "evidence"?

It might not be evidence of conspiracy, but it quite clearly is a symptom of political madness, wouldn't you agree?


Sweden is a huge country with very low population density and one of its neighbors is Russia, a formidable military power. This means it is very dependent on the US for its security, and more likely to be vulnerable to explicit or implicit pressure from the US than an island nation of 60 million people that is also a nuclear power.

I'm convinced this is also the case with Australia, which is why they're so unwilling to stand up for Assange.


They don't actually share a border with Russia, were never part of Russia or the USSR and are part of the EU. There's zero chance of the Russians invading.


You do realise the British nukes are Polaris missiles bought from and serviced by the United States, correct? Put blunt, the UK wouldn't be a nuclear power right now if the US didn't sell them ICBMs.

I believe the "special relationship" between the US and the UK would still stand if the US asked for an Australian to be extradited from the UK to the US. The British just extradited O'Dwyer to the US for civil offences. Assange would most likely be charged under the US Espionage Act, which is a criminal offence.


The logic here is that the detention of Bradley Manning without due process for two years in inhuman conditions along with pressure made to Visa, Mastercard and Paypal to halt payment processing to Wikileaks (later found illegal), whatever they pulled to make amazon stop hosting Wikileaks, the potentially government sponsored DDOS attacks, the fact that UK is thinking about violating the Vienna Convention over a minor criminal charge suggest that "the US" (whatever that means) seem to not have qualms about going beyond legality to make an example of Assange.

It does sound like a conspiracy theory that the US would do that but so many things that sound like a conspiracy theory have happened around this case that it is no longer a valid proxy for truth.


Actually—as shocked as I am to write this sentence—a comment on Reddit explains some of the bizarre legal wrangling behind the Assange case: http://www.reddit.com/r/law/comments/yh6g6/why_didnt_the_uk_... .

I'm looking for a way to excerpt the comment, but it's sufficiently cohesive that there's no good way to do so.


I got this far:

Another interesting tidbit is that Assange is only sought by Sweden for questioning and has not been formally charged.

... and stopped reading. Assange is wanted for arrest --- it's an EAW we're discussing, after all --- and can't normally charge him until they have done so.

There are lots of great comments on Reddit, for whatever it's worth.


> it's an EAW we're discussing, after all --- and can't normally charge him until they have done so.

You keep repeating this, and people keep demonstrating that it is untrue.

Edit: And just to be clear, you believe you know more about this than a constitutional law prof from the EU (the author of the reddit comment), correct?


Huh ? Where ? I've seen one intent to show it's untrue (in this thread) and honestly the arguments where bogus.

I don't know Swedish law at all. But actually in French law (my domain of study) in a criminal case assigned to a "Juge d'instruction" (who acts more or less like a prosecutor), no indictment ("mise en examen") is possible without a physical presentation to the "Juge d'Instruction".

So I know of at least One other set of laws where the idea that someone cannot be charged without a formal presentation to the "prosecutor" is a fact, so it's not unthinkable that the Swedish law can be similar in that matter. And you will need more than : "No it's not true" to convince me that three consecutives Courts including a High Court made a mistake on this point.

Edit about your edit : I think that your argument of authority is invalidated by the presence of three decisions by UK courts that took their decisions after hearing counsels and legal experts on both sides of the question.


Yes, and the EU court determined that such a requirement does not waive the right to appeal a sentence. Which means somebody can actually be charged in absentia without legal repercussions, so it doesn't really matter whether they're present or not. From what I've heard, France is currently changing its system to reflect these rulings.

Btw, your own appeal to authority is pointless: I'm sure the courts of China are also always right in their decisions.

We're all human, we all make mistakes, we all suffer from external pressures. The UK High Court is as highly politicised as any similar body around the world, and has quite an appalling record on civil liberties in general (from libel laws to Pinochet). It's not unthinkable that they might have ruled as they did because the UK establishment is aligned to US interests -- they are even adopting names from the US system! We now have a Supreme Court and a number of Secretaires who used to be Ministers...


I'm not sure about what you're saying... but if you're saying that the fact that ECHR considers judgments in absentia to be of no legal repercussions... means that a State can pursue charges in absentia even more easily... well... I think, in my understanding of Law, that you are wrong. It means that pursuing charges in absentia... is of no legal repercussions (duh). So the accused is entitled a right to a full fresh re-trial... not an appeal. Because it's like if nothing was done. That's why States try to avoid this... It's waste of ressources, because a sentence is of no use... Anyway there is going to be a full retrial of the first instance.

And there is a lot of things changing in French procedural law... but this is not changing. Judges of Instructions are not considered against ECHR and the rule that make it a requiremnt to present a suspect before the judge before any indictment... is actually more respectful of ECHR law than otherwise (see. 5.3 of the European convention on Human Rights).

And btw you know, China is not the UK or Sweden...

Oh and please ? Are you serious about the "adopting names from the US System" isn't that a proof of submission !" No it's not...


Charging or accusing is one thing, passing judgement another. From http://www.reddit.com/r/law/comments/yh6g6/why_didnt_the_uk_... :

> The French penal procedure used to demand similarly that a suspect should surrender and go to prison on the eve of his criminal trial. The European Court consistently found this a violation of 6§1 in a string of cases (Omar, Guerin, Khalfoui, Goth, Papon, Coste, Morel, Walser, etc.) that eventually managed to have the French law amended. There is not much wiggle room here: Assange has a fundamental right to be questioned by the prosecutors without having to surrender to Swedish police.

And of course UK and Sweden are not China, but please point me to the law that says they will never become like China; in the UK, there isn't even a codified right to freedom of speech as it is, as witnessed by the horrendous libel laws. In any case, the US-led program of "extraordinary renditions", which was carried out by UK and Sweden in earnest, is not very different from what a Chinese government would enact; nor are the kangaroo courts that will judge (maybe, one day, if they ever feel like) Pvt. Manning, or the "legal acts" that put people in Guantanamo indefinitely and without due process. There are no "good governments" or "bad governments", they're all different shades of grey and they change with the times.

(Btw, I'm sorry that you fail to appreciate the extent of the current state of the "special relationship", but I can ensure you that it's really troubling. In the last 15 years, US foreign policy has been enacted without fail by successive UK governments, and the encroachment of US-born ethos and culture on British public discourse has been relentless. We joke of becoming "Air-Strip One", when in fact we're basically already there.)


Well. You actually cast some doubts on my knowledge of French procedural law... so since, France is a civil law country I went to the Code de Procédure Pénale. So small class about what happen when a Judge d'Instruction (which in France is an independent judge who is charged of preparing the case to be judged in a formal court. But only on serious crimes affairs, or when it's a complex affair. So it's like an "expert" prosecutor for serious cases which job is not to actually prosecute... but to really gather the evidence for a fair trial (he has the mission of searching evidences for and against the suspect) I will use JI to refer to this judge) want to speak to someone.

3 cases :

1 - The person is not seriously suspected of being the perpetrator of the crime investigated. He can be forced to present itself to the JI if the JI wants it. Then he will be considered a witness. This is Art. 101 of the CPP (Code of Penal Procedure) In the case of an external impossibility (meaning that it's not just the guy not wanting to come) the JI can actually go to the witness or hear the witness by any mean (Art. 109 CPP). So even if you are a just a witness you can be forced to come.

2 - An assisted witness Art.113-1 CPP (that's when there is some possibility that you are going to be indicted because you are a suspect), the difference is that an assisted witness has the right to have a lawyer, more rights etc. If you have been identified at least by name by the victim, then you must at least be this. So at least. Assange would have been an assisted witness. It's true that an assisted witness has the right to ask is own indictment, and the JI must comply (Art. 113-6 CPP). BUT, to have the assisted witness status you must have been heard at least once by the JI. Force can still be used to present to assisted witness to the JI, and in case of impossibility etc. etc.

3 - Indicted (Mise en examen). A lot of rights, but also much much much more power to the JI investigating the case. And well, the indictment defined at the 80-1 and 80-2 CPP is quite clearly possible after a face to face interview between the JI and the suspect : Translation by myself "The indictment can only happen after the first interview of the person in front of the JI"...

I could go on explaining the fine details of this law... but I think you got the picture.

Oh, and about your "string of cases"... I'm really sorry to say it... but you totally misinterpreting them. I mean... radically.

See Walser v. France => The problem was that the plaintiff in this case was arrested to be presented to a JI, she (the plaintiff) was then held in custody of the police for more than the legal 48h (58:30 actually) and the only had her first meeting with the JI and was then indicted, benefiting of all rights and protections of the indicted (a lawyer, access to the role of events and her own file etc.). The ECHR says it right away, the problem was the lack of due diligence by the police, not the arrest in itself. The European Judges said that the maximum time to be detained before a presentation to a prosecutor is 48h outside of extraordinary situation (Like the case I cited of Medvedyev v. France, where since it was an extraordinary situation (Medvedyev and all where caught in the middle of the ocean 10 days away from the nearest French coast, so they said that since they where presented right away to a judge after landing, it was legal).

So clearly the Good Court of Strasbourg is not objecting the fact that the suspect was forced to surrender to French police to be then questioned by the Judges and Prosecutors. The Wise Court is saying that police waited too long and thus abused authority. And French law was modified accordingly, creating the articles 803-2 803-3 in the CPP saying that the suspect must be presented in the legal time and quicker possible.

Oh... but maybe you're referring something happening at a totally different moment in the procedure. Yeah... you know, the act of surrender as a prisoner... just before a supreme court trial if, and only if he had been judged guilty by the appellate court. Nothing to do with the indictment, the investigation and everything. It's only that French law required that if an appellate court said you were guilty and sentenced you to a prison sentence, then you had to first go beyond bars to be able to require an appeal in front of the supreme court. This element of law has been deleted of French law in 2000, yes. But has nothing at all to do with the present case. And as I show, the Court is perfectly fine with authorizing the police to arrest people so they can be presented to a judge to be indicted and then investigated, which is exactly what is going on here with Assange... This cases are filled in the Access to a Tribunal Rights at the ECHR books, not the rights of persons being investigated.

TL;DR: Omar and etc. are cases concerning the fact that in France before 2000 if you where sentenced to prison by an appellate court, you had to surrender yourself to the police in order to be able to appeal to the Supreme Court. If you were on the run, your lawyer couldn't file an appeal to the Supreme. But this has nothing to do with the present case. Since Assange already filed complaints in Sweden about decisions by the prosecutors and etc. And the ECHR is perfectly fine with an arrest in investigations, provided it is to present the suspect to a prosecutor or judge (and some other cases also).

Finally : Assange has a fundamental right to file appeal even if he is on the run. But the prosecutors have the right to ask police to bring Assange by force if he denies coming willingly.

---- Now speaking of the other comments you made : ----

On the subject of respect of the rule of law by Sweden and UK, you are right. Nothing impedes UK and Sweden than become worse than China on that matter. BUT, frankly... that kind of thing does not happen out of the blue. Guantanomo and Pvt Manning is out of scope, that's US, and we both agree that Justice in the US is quite needing in everything that concerns """"National Security"""". We are speaking of Sweden and UK here.

Oh and... about the special relationship... sooo if this relationship is so special... and since, I pretty sure Sweden's relationship with US is not at allll that special, why the hell would he be afraid of going to Sweden to be extradicted to the US ?


Except that it is true. The reddit citations are simply the reddit poster's poor understanding of the facts, which do not reflect reality.

Lesson to learn here: do not cite reddit as a factual source.


The author of the reddit comment says something about that:

  Assange is only sought by Sweden for questioning and has 
  not been formally charged. While the British High Court 
  has decided that the current advancement of the Swedish 
  procedure is equivalent to being charged in the UK, I 
  consider this ruling to be an aberration; the common-law 
  steeped High Court failed to understand a finer point of 
  the civil-law influenced Swedish penal procedure.


This, directly from the Swedish High Court ruling, contradicts that:

    "7. According to Swedish law, a formal decision to indict may not be 
    taken at the stage that the criminal process is currently at. Julian 
    Assange's case is currently at the stage of "preliminary investigation". 
    It will only be concluded when Julian Assange is surrendered to Sweden 
    and has been interrogated.


The author of that comment summarized it himself:

  - Assange is not charged (yet) and the High Court is wrong 
    on that point

  - Assange has a fundamental right clearly recognized by 
    the ECHR not to surrender to Swedish police before 
    appearing in front of the Swedish prosecutor

  - The Swedish Prosecution Service has consistently refused 
    to promise that Assange wouldn't be extradited to the US 
    once in Swedish custody; this type of promise is common 
    in extradition cases and within the power of the Swedish 
    prosecution service

  - The Swedish Prosecution Service has refused the 
    opportunity to question Assange through videoconference, 
    while insisting on Assange's surrender to Swedish 
    custody; this is a clear and known violation of the ECHR 
    that the Swedish prosecutors can't ignore.

  There's only one possible conclusion:
  the Swedish prosecutors are acting in bad faith here.


" - Assange has a fundamental right clearly recognized by the ECHR not to surrender to Swedish police before appearing in front of the Swedish prosecutor"

I don't know about the rest, but of what I know of ECHR (which is not nothing, being a student in law in an european country), this is false. The ECHR actually rendered a decision about this in an affair concerning France (a very important affair that is changing a lot in procedural French law so it's troughtfully studied here in France). It's the case Medvedyev v. France (29 mars 2010 (yes it's that recent)). In this case a group of men were arrested in High Sea, by police, and they were then under arrest for days before appearing in front of a prosecutor. They contested this as contrary to their human rights to not be held under arrest without presentation in front of a judge. And they lost... (they lost on this point, they won other ones in the case) because the police did everything they could to actually be as fast as possible, so the article 5.3 of the ECHR was respected.

So Assange has a fundamental right to be presented to a judge/prosecutor before any arrest. BUT, he can be forced to appear in front of the judge. And he has no right to resist being arrested if this arrest has the sole purpose of putting him in front of a Swedish prosecutor.

So well... You know.. if this guy is wrong about one of the most important decisions by the ECHR in the last 10 years, then I tend to think that he may be wrong about other things he says with such "confidence".


I think this is incorrect in a number of ways:

* The Swedish High Court held specifically that Assange cannot be charged at this stage of the process; under Swedish law, with a domestic arrest warrant issued, he must first be arrested and face his prosecutor.

* The Swedish High Court specifically considered the videoconference option, which is not required under the ECHR, and, at the level of the High Court and consistant with the demands of the prosecution, rejected it: he needs to be questioned in person, and, depending on his responses to questioning, the Swedish may need to employ physical forensic science (as they would in any rape case).

* Swedish law requires the Prosecutor General to evaluate extradition requests on a case-by-case basis; under Swedish law, the government cannot offer Assange a blanket protection from extradition to the US. Incidentally, if this type of promise is common, I'd point out that the examples of it seem to have eluded the press; can you provide any yourself?

Most of these issues are helpfully excerpted by the author of this particular column from the Swedish High Court opinion upholding the EAW. You don't even have to search for it, or read the whole opinion.


Quoting the author again:

  What Assange wants is not a decision from Sweden's 
  government, but a promise from Sweden's prosecutors [...]. 
  The Swedish Prosecution Service has consistently refused 
  to promise that Assange wouldn't be extradited to the US 
  once in Swedish custody; this type of promise is common 
  in extradition cases and within the power of the Swedish 
  prosecution service


You're repeating the same assertion I questioned, verbatim. The author of this blog post quotes an article that itself quotes practically chapter and verse for why this type of promise is not feasible under Swedish law. I then said, if these promises were common, surely there's an example to be found of them somewhere.


This may be difficult for you to hear tptacek, but the world doesn't run on logic.

If you want to survive, you have to join the dots. People lie. People cheat. And if you fail to infer their motives from their actions, then you will be eaten alive.


To answer your question about the article itself, some of its points are good. Point one ("the charges would not be rape under UK law") and point four ("Sweden could try Assange in London") seem both good and relevant. But like I said, they don't seem to have a lot of influence on the heart of the matter in this case. And I don't think it makes sense to discuss the other points without looking at the whole picture.

To bring up two concrete misgivings I have with the article:

    Sweden should guarantee that there be no extradition to USA
Extradition cases are almost always a political issue, subject to treaties that are often negotiated outside of the normal legislative authorities. So there is definitely something to the objections people have to this point, and this article doesn't give justice to the objections.

    By giving Assange asylum, Ecuador is protecting freedom of the press
Maybe not freedom of the press. But Equador did offer Assange political asylum. The reason is up to debate. If you take it at face value, they believe that Assange is the victim of political persecution. Otherwise you'll have to say they're trying to piss off the US, or maybe somehow protect their own interests. But they offered him asylum for a reason, and this is very relevant to discuss. In fact, it's very strange that we have a world where a former banana republic offers political asylum to a guy who's wanted in the West.


Ecuador is trying (a) to piss off the US and (b) to rally political support within Ecuador based on a phony issue, so as to avoid attention to Ecuador's very real problems with repression.

The idea that Ecuador (of all countries) would be taking a principaled stand against repression is actually the one that beggars belief, based on the recent history of the Correa administration.


That's an interesting piece of information I wasn't aware of. Wish the news media was smart enough to dig into things to uncover stuff like this.


They do. From the first NYT article I found when I searched for "Assange" on their site, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/europe/twists-in-jul...:

Some observers also expressed surprise that Mr. Assange, who shot to fame as a fighter for transparency and press freedom, had chosen Ecuador as a potential refuge. He and the country’s president, Rafael Correa, shared warm laughter and a disdain for the United States government in an interview Mr. Assange conducted for his talk show recently on the Kremlin-funded Russia Today network . But Mr. Correa has presided over a crackdown on journalists in Ecuador, according to several reports.

In February, the publisher of the Ecuadorean newspaper El Universo took refuge in the Panamanian Embassy in Quito, and was granted asylum, after the newspaper was ordered to pay $40 million and he was sentenced to three years in prison for defaming Mr. Correa.

The court’s decision was “a serious attack on freedom of the press and gagging of independent journalism,” the Miami-based Inter American Press Association told Agence France-Presse at the time. It criticized “a judicial and legal structure that is used to make reprisals against those who dissent from official policy.”


HN is an interesting subculture, but most Americans would like to Assange in US prison, trying to explain to Red Rope and Benteye why he should keep his tennis shoes.


> No court in Europe seems to view the situation that way.

So why does Ecuador see it that way? Are they stupid or easily fooled? Do they want to start political controversy? Some other conspiracy?


This is a little like asking why Burma wasn't consulted in the extradition. The simple answer is: Ecuador simply isn't a party to this controversy, and so the way they see things isn't material.

Yes, I think the issue here is that Ecuador wants to start a political controversy. There is prima facie evidence, compelling and voluminous, that the principals Ecuador is "standing up for" in granting asylum are very much at odds with the principals Ecuador is itself governed by. Occam's Razor more or less demands that we look for motives other than press freedom principals.


"The simple answer is: Ecuador simply isn't a party to this controversy, and so the way they see things isn't material"

On the contrary, Ecuador's independence from the controversy makes them seem more impartial and credible.


Why not poll all the countries before allowing extradition?


Equating the due diligence Ecuador _supposedly_ did before making the decision to grant asylum with "a poll" is unfair.

Honestly many of your responses to comments on this thread seem very unfair. And I'm not talking about the content of them but the manner in which you respond. You have a very good way of cheapening legitimate points that have been made.


If you say so. I find dubious any assertion that Ecuador is making a principled stand for transparency. The Correa administration took office in 2007 and almost immediately seized major television stations and revoked licenses for additional TV and radio stations. It sentenced the directors of newspapers to prison time simply for allowing columns critical of Correa to be printed. It charged journalists with crimes for writing books critical of the administration, "pardoned" them, and then had its corrupt judiciary "overturn" those pardons and levy farcical fines against those journalists.

The idea that Ecuador as a disinterested third party is somehow objective or fair about the Assange incident is to my eyes laughable. The Correa administration is despicable.


Correa's view, not that I know enough to endorse it or not, is that Ecuador's press is dominated by corporate influence. This creates a situation not unlike in the US, where the mainstream media is not always fair in its reporting.

In fact, the wikileaks cables even showed something about how Ecuador's media was happy to attack the government, but not the actually powerful corporate interests.

Therefore, going after "the press" in Ecuador may have been more about ending libellous attacks from corporate special interests rather than some sinister intolerance of legitimate criticism. Not that this makes restricting speech okay, but it does help to explain it.


>Ecuador simply isn't a party to this controversy

They became a party to it the moment they granted him political asylum.


Ecuador's Correa is attempting to establish himself as the replacement to Hugo Chavez as the South American counterbalance to American power in the region.

So...mostly, Ecuador is doing this to tweak America.


As to why US would care if Assange was in Sweden, maybe it has something to do with the wikileaks hosting? I don't know, and I don't really think so -- but I just came across this:

https://p10.secure.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/ssl/wikil...

Maybe it would make it easier to (legally) wire tap communication going through the Wikileaks infrastructure if Assange is improsoned in Sweden ? (Eg: open an investigation for suspicion of drug use in prison).

Just a thought.


A couple of things, one of the tenants for democracy was that a government elected by the people is more trustworthy than a self selecting government. There are lots of discussions on why this may (or may not) be true, but historically it comes down to whether or not you believe the people are willing (and able) to replace an ill-behaving government.

The point about Assange being 'easier' to extradite from the UK than from Sweden is pretty key here. The US is on much better terms with the UK government and any extradition that would be possible in Sweden would be even easier to do in the UK. So I agree with the OP that its unlikely he is ever going to be extradited here, or perhaps even charged here.

A much simpler explanation however is that Assange uses his situation to both keep himself in the spotlight (attention on him and by reflection his cause) and to promulgate a message. The way he currently positions himself is as a persecuted rebel fighting the good fight, its a much better and engaging narrative than narcissistic dilettante with poor impulse control. Not being inside his head we cannot know which characterization is closer to the truth of course but we do know what he would like us to believe.


Now, if you wanted to argue that the rape charges look strange, because those charges were dismissed at first, both victims do not want to prosecute further, the accussed is kind of a target, so on... well, OK.

But your argument here amazes me. Why is it suspicious at all for the Interpol to hunt for a possible rapist? It does for thieves, kidnappers and so on. And it should. I would be surprised and enraged if the Interpol had an arbitrary threshold of violence by which it would decide to act or not, as if they were nobles graciously granting the plebs the gift of international justice.

Now, I don't buy that this rape accussations are pretexts. If the U.S. really wanted Assange, why haven't they charged him of espionage, hacking, anything to pressure the U.K. to extradite him? Sweden is now full of U.S.'s lackeys, but the U.K. isn't? Or, shit, just send a CIA agent there and get him on a plane. Wouldn't be the first time that happened.


> Why is it suspicious at all for the Interpol to hunt for a possible rapist?

When does the Interpol ever get involved in a rape case? Especially one where someone is suspected of not-actually-rape -"rape", and supposedly only wanted for "questioning"?

What the fuck? Does this not sound suspicious to you at all?

> If the U.S. really wanted Assange, why haven't they charged him of espionage, hacking, anything to pressure the U.K. to extradite him?

Who knows? Maybe they came up with the bullshit rape charges in Sweden first, before someone thought of doing that? At least at this point, they kind of have to go through Sweden to maintain any tiny shreds of credibility.


Sweden does not want him for questioning. They want to arrest him for rape.


Really now?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/21/julian-assange-d...

Julian Assange today defended his decision not to return to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault, saying he did not need to be "at the beck and call of people making allegations".

Apparently in 2010, it was for "questioning". It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now.


Interpol is not qualified to judge if what a full member country calls rape is really rape. They received a request from the country, and they charge it (well... they do filter non-serious charges... but this almost never happens to fully respected democracies).

And yeah... rape is actually one of those things that Interpol almost always investigate if it's crossborder. It's actually not strange at all... To Interpol, it's rape. Which is considered a very serious crime. Period.


Read the article, it answers those questions.


Interpol gets involved in rape cases all the time. Most of them do not make the U.S. papers or otherwise become international news.


It does for thieves, kidnappers and so on.

I think this is the heart of the matter.

A couple of months ago my wife's car was robbed. The police did nothing but document the theft for insurance purposes, making no effort to identify or apprehend the criminal. I've no doubt that if my wife was assaulted, they would have made some actual efforts; and had she been killed or raped, they'd have made it a priority.

It must be that the authorities have some kind of scale for severity (and locale) of crimes, relating to how much effort they're willing to expend. Minor crimes don't get as much effort. Assange's accused crime is toward the higher end of that scale, but is also somebody else's problem; perhaps foreign police aren't willing to go as far for foreign crimes: would the Swedish police be willing to invest much if my wife's hypothetical assailant were known to be in Sweden?

The OP's point seems to hinge on this logic, which really does seem to be the way these thinks work. What we don't know is how the Swedish authorities (or any others) would rank the accused crimes in their table of "how much resources do we commit?".



What if he really did commit rape, and Sweden really does just want to arrest him for that, and has no plans to extradite him? How would this situation look different to you?

> The Swedish government could guarantee that Assange wouldn't be extradited, but it would make them look bad in the eyes of the US and others.

And here's where you reveal that you did not read the article.


There is agreement that both parties consented to having sex and that there was no violence involved. A strange kind of rape, isn't it?

The point here is, even if it turns out to be "rape", everyone has a certain picture of it in their mind. That is a picture of the random stranger preying on a woman. Or of parents/relatives abusing a girl. Or whatever.

So speaking of rape is very misleading, bordering on lying. Better call it was it was: consentual sex, supposedly started without a condom (contrary to agreement) and then continued after the women agreed.


Because an instance of rape does not follow your exact mental picture of what "rape" is, it does not follow that the allegation of rape is "bordering on lying". Very similar arguments were made during the formation of US jurisprudence on spouse rape (an unprosecutable offense in many states until the 1970s!) and "date"/acquaintance rape.

If you had read the article, you'd see it contained a prominent link to Sweden's court considering exactly the issues of whether Assange's conduct constituted rape under Sweden's statutes. Not only does it, but the same conduct alleged also constitutes rape in the UK, where "sleep rape" has been prosecuted for years.


I thought you would say this. First, I have read the article. Second, spouse rape is different: a) If reported, it will always be reported, that the victim was the spouse. Therefore people adjust their mental picture and have a correct grasp of what happened. This is very important. b) In spouse rape, again, the sex will happen against the will of the victim (usually using force and in broken relationships). This is very different from failure to use a condom.

So why is it so important for you to call it rape? Just describe what happened, and don't lead your readers astray!


Because in both Sweden and the UK, the offense we are discussing has a name, and the name is "rape".


Wrong. I already explained that the press always reports the context (e.g. spouse rape), but you ignored this. I have particularly observed this in a case that received a lot of publicity last year in Germany.

Please look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_rape

(I've just created this account in an incognito window, because my procrastination filter blocked me. ;-) Got to go now and won't able to answer again.)


> everyone has a certain picture of it in their mind.

Which is impossibly irrelevant.

> consentual sex, supposedly started without a condom (contrary to agreement)

If it's contrary to agreement in whole or in part, it's not consensual.

> after the women agreed.

Or she acquiesced. (EDIT: as in, surrendered resistance)


If it's contrary to agreement in whole or in part, it's not consensual.

That's quite a statement to make as if it's universal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_by_deception

>The crime—known in Tennessee and California as rape by fraud[1]—is only recognised in few jurisdictions; in all others the definition of rape actually involves lack of consent at the time of intercourse.

Even if they agreed to sex based on lies, they still agreed to it. It's an awful behavior but I don't think it should be given the title of 'rape'. No one is being forced upon, whether through physical or psychological means.


I wasn't speaking about the law, I was speaking about moral behavior. Consent which is anything less than enthusiastic should be frowned upon, at the very least, by all of us.


Well, morally, I feel that lying to someone to sleep with them is sleazy and wrong, but it doesn't traumatize them the way forcing the issue via threat will.


It's called rape because of the psychological effects on the (alleged, in this case) victim, not because of the psychological affects on people who read about it in the paper, and a lot of people here on HN would do very well to stop trivialising it.


It's also called rape because it involves sex with someone who was asleep and wasn't able to give consent.

If you see someone asleep and go up to them and start having sex with them, that's rape!


Assange is wanted for 4 offences in Sweden. One of them is the "sex without condom one". Another is "sex with someone who is asleep". That is the one that is refered to as rape, and that is rape.

Stop spreading the ideal that this isn't a "real rape" or "legitimate rape" case.


> This is not the kind of high-profile violent crime that would lead to an international manhunt through Interpol.

This is not a "normal" crime situation, as a commenter put it yesterday: no embassy would normally grant a third party protection when there is an arrest warrant for rape involved, nor would this situation "normally" have so much media attention. Replace Assange with someone else equally as politically relevant (say G .W. Bush) and the situation would be identical.

> In the interest of gauging people's opinions, does anyone disagree with this particular point?

This article explicitly states that Assange is just as safe in Sweden from America (if not more so) as he is in England. He chose to stay in England until an arrest warrant was issued; if he believed his life was in danger why was he happy to stay in England until the arrest warrant? Why didn't he flee before? If Sweden is willing to disregard all their laws to extradite him why didn't England?

His behaviour seems like the behaviour of someone that wants to avoid being taken to the place that he is wanted for arrest and that the wikileaks involvement is one big cover, the reasons relating to Wikileaks have been shown in articles like this to be irrelevant, articles like this have shown that the supposed concerns are not legitimate, so the only conclusion I can come to is either Assange believes he is going to be found guilty of his supposed crime, or that he thinks Sweden is willing to break lots of laws that England aren't willing to break, yet this article again shows that is very unlikely.

His behaviour is inconsistent, therefore I am not 100% sure that this is all one big play to get him to America to be murdered. I think it's just as likely that his "fame" is the problem.

> The Swedish government could guarantee that Assange wouldn't be extradited, but it would make them look bad in the eyes of the US and others. So clearly they won't.

The article explains that they can't make that promise and it also explains why such concerns are of little relevance.


Just because the article explicitly says Assange is safer in Sweden than in the UK, doesn't mean it is true. By the letter of the law it might be a simpler case in the UK, but the British press is a different beast and the public is already extremely sensitive to their government's coopereation with American extraditions. These are factors which are in Assange's favour which change the equation significantly.


My question is: If Sweden wants Assange, why is Britain the one saying they'll invade the embassy? Shouldn't it be Sweden who is invading the Ecuadoran Embassy instead of Britain? I really don't see Britain bending over backwards to break the diplomatic status quo for Sweden, but I do see them doing that for the U.S. or themselves and that's why I think this is about more than a rape case in Sweden.


Did this really seem like a good question when you typed it? "If Sweden wants Assange, why don't they send armed people to UK soil in order to violate the privileges of Ecuador's diplomatic mission to the UK?"


Do the words you put in quotes actually sound like what I said to you? Bit of a straw man.

But even if you want to argue to that extreme, then well, yeah if you consider the USA sent its military into Pakistan without them even knowing. The USA does that kind of stuff all the time and at least in this case, the UK will know about it and is cooperating with Sweden on the issue.

Even further, Sweden has an embassy there already with armed guards that could very well likely beat up Ecuador's armed guards, so no one needs to be sent there -- they are already there.


Has that ever happened in the history of modern diplomacy? The guards of one embassy sent to invade another embassy? This doesn't sound silly to you?


Things happening that have never happened before occur so frequently they invented a word for it: Precedent. And yes, the whole fiasco is silly.

Do you actually think this is about Sweden wanting to extradite him for accusations of rape? Seriously, compare this to Roman Polanski, who was actually convicted of the crimes and the Swiss still rejected extradition.

And no, for the record, I don't think the UK saying, "Okay Sweden, if you want him, he is in the Ecuadoran Embassy. Our relationship with Ecuador and honoring centuries of diplomatic customs between nations is a bigger deal than your rape case."

Rape is horrible and I acknowledge that. I also see that diplomatic relations are way heavier than crimes of that magnitude -- even greater magnitude -- and are consistently prioritized as such in countless diplomatic immunity cases throughout history.

Frankly I don't care what kind of clout you have around here, your condescending tone is unwarranted. Your superficial comments make you look like an arrogant dolt.


Yes. I think the Swedes want to extradite Assange to face rape charges. Also, the Swedes are not Swiss. Europe is tricky, I know.


If this thread is annoying you enough that you become more of a jerk immediately after being called out on it, you should probably just chill out for a bit.


I don't follow what you're trying to say at all, but the comment I replied to was edited extensively after I wrote my response (I haven't re-read it).


>> Frankly I don't care what kind of clout you have around here, your condescending tone is unwarranted.

> Also, the Swedes are not Swiss. Europe is tricky, I know.

Let's talk about silly. As of this post, you've commented in this thread 31 times. Just let it go man.


As far as I'm concerned, Thomas is the voice of reason in this thread. (A few others have come in with similar positions, but he has done the brunt of trying to reason with people whose arguments are based on wild speculation.)


I'm pretty sure you're quoting context that wasn't present in the original comment I replied to.


You're being a presumptive jerk. Several people throughout this thread have told you so and you keep digging yourself deeper.

The writing is on the wall.


I can't help but wonder if tptacek has ties to the government. He's always defending The Establishment in whatever comes up - be it banks taking away people's homes, or now Assange.

It's just weird. He's smarter than I am, and I can see bullshit for what it is.


As a general gauge, I think a lot of people are hugely offended by the idea that some forms of non-consensual sex aren't rape.


Under what insane set of morals or laws is having sex with an unconscious person not considered rape?


In some countries it may not be _called_ rape (which is sometimes subject to rather strange and archaic definitions) but it will generally be an equivalent form of sexual assault. In any case, it's rape in the UK.


If you believe that men are now being prosecuted and hounded by all those nasty nasty feminists who just want to castrate all men.

It's just another conspiracy theory, like the Jews did 9/11 and Obama is a secret muslim. Nutcases.


Never had your girlfriend wake you up with a blowjob?


Well non-consensual doesn't necessarily imply unconscious. There are levels of force that could be considered rape, although some countries has laws on the books saying only women can be raped. I don't want look that up for proof at the moment, as I'm sitting at work.


> Well non-consensual doesn't necessarily imply unconscious

Correct. But non-consensual means rape.


I don't think you even came close to answer his question.


Where did his parent mention unconscious? He specifically called that out, so I responded with "unconscious isn't the only form of rape, and what people might call rape isn't always legally rape".

His question was a fallacy, I just pointed that out.


I am offended by the ideal that there are people who think non-consensual sex doesn' count as rape.

What's next? "Some forms of non-consenting taking of property shouldn't count as theft", etc.


People also get confused by the idea that some types of non-married men aren't bachelors.


Ok, I'm from sweden, and I'm a supporter of wiki-leaks, this is my perspective on this:

Why do everyone seem to become a tin-foil hat when it comes to Assange?

Prosecuting Assange for rape in Sweden has nothing to do with prosecuting him for espionage in America.

Sure, there are people trying to boost their careers by this case, being the one to convict Assange for a crime like this might be a great way to speed up your career, and the effort put down to do it is in no way proportional to the alleged crime.

But to take it from there to that this is some CIA conspiracy to just bounce him in Sweden on his way to guantanamo or whatever is just silly.

Also, why do everyone who supports wiki-leaks seem to assume that he didn't commit the crime? I'm not saying that he did, I have no idea if he did or not, but the way to find out is through a legal court. If he would go to trial, there would be so many people following it and examining every piece of evidence to check if it holds, he wouldn't just get convicted by default...

The Swedish legal system isn't THAT bad.

Doing great things in one area of life doesn't mean that you can't do bad things in others, and to me his actions seems like someone who is just trying to use his rock-star status to get away with acting like an asshole. But I have no Idea, the only thing I know is that he is trying really hard to prevent me from finding out.

And if he did or did not doesn't change the value of the idea that we the people should have the transparency to be able to know what our governments are doing on our behalf, or the impact of the organization that he is a part of.


The problem is that it's just a little too convenient. He's suddenly wanted in the US for the Wikileaks piece, and right afterwards he's wanted in Sweden. The prosecutor drops the case, but then it's picked back up with an arrest warrant. Suddenly Interpol is brought into the mix for what really isn't typically an Interpol matter. That's a lot of money and time spent across international borders for an allegation with no evidence. It's too convenient to not raise questions about ulterior motives.

He might be guilty, I don't see anyone credible saying he's not. What I hear people saying is "why is this suddenly an international incident?"


Except for the first prosecutor that handled the case (bearing in mind that Sweden has a remarkably poor record when it comes to prosecuting sexual violence).


It's convenient because he raped and/or sexually assaulted two women around the same time the Wikileaks leak happened.

The prosecutor also did not drop the case--he merely recommended that the charges than being considered not be made. His superior chose to disregard that recommendation and proceeded to charge Assange for the charges then being considered and additional charges.


Personally I think it is more likely that intelligence services had a hand in either a) setting the stage for the rape (ie: one or both the girls were intelligence assets), or b) pushing for prosecution (IMNHO more likely).

Motives for both a) and b) would probably be to discredit Assange, as well as (with arrest, the strain of a trial, and the presumed following incarceration in a perfectly normal Swedish prison) making Assange unable to contribute effectively to Wikileaks.

Damage to the reputation of Assange, as well as limiting his ability to move around would presumably also hurt fund raising campaigns.

There have been documented cases of similar (and much, much worse) by eg. the CIA and the FBI[1,2] -- I don't think exploring the possibility is crazy.

Saying it absolutely is so, without any proof, is crazy, however.

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/2006/aug/18/opinion/oe-schou18 (Extra irony points for link to LA Times story on Webb?) [2] http://cironline.org/reports/man-who-armed-black-panthers-wa...


Look at what we know about the case. Look at the girls hanging out with him _after_ the supposed rape. Does that sound like the actions of a rape victim to you?

Add to that the case has already been dropped by the first prosecutor _and_ the girls didn't want to prosecute him for rape (they merely wanted to know if they could force him to take an STD test).

Oh and supposedly the new prosecutor is friends with one of the girls!

Sorry, but this case stinks.


It's sad that a thread about Wikileaks is leading us to comments like this. It is in fact not unusual for people to remain cordial after being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. People are routinely raped by their spouses and significant others, and those people do not instantly break off their relationships. Confusion and conflicted feelings are the norm in these situations.

It is possible to believe that Julian Assange is the victim of a politically motivated frame-up without writing dismissively about acquaintance rape.


"Also Sweden (like the United Kingdom) is bound by EU and ECHR law not to extradite in circumstances where there is any risk of the death penalty or torture. There would be no extradition in the United States in such circumstances."

Except that law has been violated before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Agiza_and_Muhammad_al-Ze...

Edit: In my opinion this article seems to clear up some myths spread by the Assange supporters while continuing to spread myths by the Assange opponents.


The article does not make the point that, having been delivered to Sweden, Assange would be protected by an impregnable shield against extradition to the US. Rather, the article simply points out that the protections Assange has against extradition in Sweden are comparable to the ones he has in the UK --- perhaps better, in fact, given the ease with which the US has extradited people from the UK.

More importantly, since both the UK and Sweden are already enjoined formally from extraditing Assange to face the death penalty, what does it mean for Assange to extract a further promise from Sweden's executive not be extradited? If the ECHR --- the very law governing extradition from Sweden --- can't be trusted, why is Assange demanding an even less meaningful promise from Sweden's government?


I don't think there's much that Assange can do to guarantee that he won't be extradited to the US. Firstly, the claim that needing both the UK and Sweden to agree extradition is largely irrelevant. Even Assange's native government, Australia, has already stated that it has no objection to extradition, and the UK has previously agreed on extradition for its own citizens, as stated. In all likelihood, this would be a formality, the foreign office acting by proxy. So 1&x = x.

The necessary preconditions for extradition are that both torture and the death penalty are precluded. The latter is easily satisfied, and is often given to states that forbid extradition where the death penalty may be applied. [1]

Locking someone up for a long time is not torture, so these apparent defences are essentially weak and I would say immaterial, even if Assange has every interest in exaggerating them.

The US is not in a competition over access to Assange. It certainly wouldn't be sensible to request extradition before the outcome of the Swedish process becomes clear. The purported fact that an extradition request has not been made seems to me immaterial to either current or future intentions or discovery.

His native government won't protect him, the UK government in all likelihood won't, so it's down to Sweden. Whether he's convicted of any crime or not there, a properly formed extradition request that passes muster will be the US's to singularly decide I'd say.

As far as I can tell, Assange sees himself and Bradley Manning in a cell for a very long time. And most everyone will forget about them eventually.

[ 1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17037068 ]


No, that was under the section called “Sweden should guarantee that there be no extradition to USA”. If it had been under the previous section it would have meant what you state.


I think it's hard to miss the comparison that's actually being made in the article between the protections Assange has in the UK versus those he'd have in Sweden, as those comparisons are made explicitly in each sentence in which the ECHR protections are mentioned.

In fact, the article points out the additional protection Assange has in Sweden: should the US seek to extradite, both Sweden and the UK would need to agree.


I agree. It would seem his best odds for justice are to go to Sweden and face the music. If he's acquitted, then he should start to look for political asylum in other countries.

The only glitch is if the Swedish authorities can detain him while the extradition process to the US is being processed.


I have not seen Assange asking any promise to Swede. Ecuador did, Assange I don't think so. I think you nailed it though on what kind of guarantee he could hope for. I think he knows very well that's impossible to juridically formulate the kind of protection it would want to have. Therefore yersterday he didn't even formulate such request he took a higher stance (and even more improbable to succeed) by asking the US of stopping the FBI investigation.


The article not only contradicts what you just said (about Assange making demands), but links to other articles considering exactly those demands in detail. You're incorrect: Assange himself asserted that one (of presumably many) condition of his acceding to extradition is an undertaking that he not be extradited from Sweden to the US.


That's not extradition, that's extraordinary rendition, an extrajudicial process. It's always illegal. And while it's a worrying thing, it would be very odd if that was an option on the table for Assange, if only because they could have done it before, and can still do it just as easily from the UK, or actual Ecuadorian soil for that matter, than from Sweden. Assange is too much of a high profile target for renditioning to do anything but backfire.


That's what bothers me about the "Sweden will send him to the US" argument.

I don't get why he's concerned about it, AND(at the same time) is in the UK, who, out of any country in the world, is quite possibly the MOST likely to agree to a US extradition request.


Not really. Britain's extradition agreement with the US is tougher than Sweden's. Britain can not extradite to the US where there's the possibility of a death sentence. The charges the US want to introduce would most likely come under the espionage act and he could face the death penalty.

Plus, public support for Assange is greater in the UK than in Sweden. Even if the request were successful, which is unlikely, it would take almost a decade, if not longer.


No, this is just completely wrong. Sweden, under the ECHR, cannot extradite people to face the death penalty either.


Oh, that's right, I forgot about the European Convention on Human Rights, I was too distracted by Sweden's consitent breaking of the rules by performing extraordinary renditions on Americas behalf.

But yeah, your probably right, there's no way Sweden will break the rules this time.


Extradition and rendition are two completely different things. If the CIA wants to rendition Assange, it'll just happen. It's an extrajudicial process more akin to kidnapping than anything else. If anything, the arrest warrant would just get in the way. It's hard to disappear people out of western European jails--easier to just grab him off the street, be it in London or Quito.

If the US wants Assange extradited, they would have to play by the rules. And the rules don't help at all if Assange is in Sweden.


The UK does not have a strong record of protecting human rights of prisoners. Just look at their record in Northern Ireland.


I really thought the HackerNews readership was better than this, but a great majority of the comments here have people getting into full-on conspiracy mode in ignorance of basic facts that have been presented. I know these folks don't necessarily represent HN as a whole, but doesn't the HN community pride itself on valuing measured factually based responses over uninformed emotional ones?

I'm sure this will get downvoted into oblivion, but I had to get it off my chest.


If people care deeply about something, they will perform all manner of mental gymnastics to maintain their worldview. I'd say it's a root cause of a whole lot of problems in developed societies. Nobody is immune, even (especially?) those who extoll reason and logic like it's the drive of existence.


No, I agree with you. There are an awful lot of people failing to engage with reality, stubbornly insisting what this article just debunked. I like the OP's name for these — "zombie facts" — you shoot them down and they just keep getting repeated.

We all have strong feelings on this issue. My original pro-Assange feelings are getting weaker, however. Sure, the accusation is terribly convenient for UK and Swedish governments, whose responses still seem suspicious in their vigor. But Assange should face those sexual assault allegations, if that's really all that's going to happen. If they are true, then what he did was reprehensible. Ultimately, we can't know what's going on behind the scenes here, if anything.


Moreover, why is this article here at all? I appreciated it, but I've also flagged the submission. It has nothing to do with hacking or startups or technology. There are many other, more appropriate sites for discussing politics, crime, and current events.


I wouldn't say it has nothing to do with technology. I think (and the amount of comments on this story seems to support that) - many HN readers are interested in information transparency and possible clandestine agendas to against openness.

If there turns out that (any number of) intelligence services have a hand in this -- I should think that would have implications for hackers everywhere.

Even if most of HN is about legitimate start-ups and projects that in the end are not very disruptive -- I'd say that many readers would be interested in what it takes to come under the very real thumb of the various arms of eg. the US government.

But I agree that if this was about someone like Sklyarov[1] it would be a better fit.

[1] http://news.cnet.com/2100-1001-270082.html


I think we should try to stick to the guidelines [1] even if there are off-topic stories that may get lots of comments and votes. My reasoning is there are many good sites on the Internet dedicated to politics and current events, but surprisingly few good discussion forums for tech startups.

This story is really only tangentially related to information transparency; the text is entirely about international politics and the law. It has nothing to do with technology.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Well, my understanding is that:

"If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

should be weighted more than:

"Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon."

Is that a radical interpretation of the guidelines?


It's touching that the author of this article thinks the only relevant points are the legal small print of the UK and Sweden. But if you think about it some more, you might realise that Assange chose the UK as his destination because he felt the public and the press would exert enough pressure on the government to shield him from any political manoeuvrings.

I propose a new metric for situations like this. Rate the likelihood that the suspect would commit this act (quite low in this case as it would be incredibly stupid given his circumstances and also not something he has a history of); the convenience the situation represents to his enemies (very high in this case, as it buys the US time to prepare their extradition case, or execute whatever agreement they have already with the Swedish government); and the ease with which his enemies could indeed set him up (easy in this case - word of two women and one co-operative prosecutor, no evidence required and no risk of alibi or counter-evidence). Now multiply these factors together and you have the Conspiracy Index of the situation.


We could invent a "new metric for situations like this" involving estimates of the "likelihood" that suspects would "commit the act" and estimates of "the convenience of the situation to the enemies of those suspects" and the "ease with which the suspect's enemies could set them up".

Or we could just have the rule of law.


I really want to revisit this post in a few months when Assange has either been jailed on extremely flimsy evidence or handed over to America using an extradition treaty, to see how you rationalise that sequence of events.


And if he's actually found innocent or guilty with serious evidences ? Will you also come back and say that you are sorry ?


Nobody is apologizing to anybody for discussing an issue on HN. This subthread is silly.


Yeah, that's my point. But as I always forget, irony without smileys is difficult to convey over the wire.

(Well... maybe I'm just not good at it... )


I would not make the mistake of trusting the law per se.

Law is far from being deterministic. It is merely a framework used for discussing concrete events.

This is what drove me away from studying law after having done it for three full years. You have all those reasonable and just rules that get thrown over board (by re-interpreting them or bending the meaning of words) as soon as they collide with a greater purpose.

As someone who has switched sides let me tell you of how lucky we can be that in computer science a zero is a zero and a one is a one.


“By giving Assange asylum, Ecuador is protecting freedom of the press”

This is perhaps the strangest proposition. / Ecuador has a woeful record on freedom of the press.

The proposition doesn't actually say that protecting the freedom of the press is their motivation. Good things can arise from bad motives.


This article isn't laying out a coherent argument for Assange's extradition; that's not its point. The point of the article is to catalog common misconceptions about the legal issues arising from the Assange drama. The "courage" of Ecuador in offering asylum to Assange is one of those misconceptions.


"The "courage" of Ecuador in offering asylum to Assange is one of those misconceptions."

That may very well be a misconception, but I am not sure I see how it is a legal misconception.


I guess I hadn't wondered about this yet...why IS Ecuador granting him asylum? Is there any quid pro quo?


The Correa government in Ecuador is part of an informal political bloc with Raul Castro's Cuban administration and Hugo Chavez' Venezuelan administration. That bloc is not particularly friendly towards the US.


The backdrop to the Assange case has been the upcoming presidential election in Ecuador, slated to be held just six months from now in February 2013. President Correa, who was first elected in 2007, will be seeking a second term under Ecuador's 2008 constitution.

Opinion polls published in the Ecuadorian media in 2012 have shown Correa with a commanding lead over his prospective opponents, largely because there is no consensus challenger. Polling from CMS in March showed Correa with just under 49% of the vote, more than 40 points ahead of the five included challengers, who polled between 1% and 9% each. Thiry percent of voters, however, said that they had not chosen a candidate to support. More recent polling has shown the emergence of Guillermo Lasso as the closest prospective candidate with 17% of the vote, while undecided voters fell to 17%. Correa held fast with 50% of the vote.

With a split field, Correa is practically guaranteed a win. Ecuadorian electoral law does not require the winning candidate to garner a majority of the popular vote; if a candidate receives at least 40% of the vote and is at least 10 points ahead of the next finisher, he or she wins in the first round.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/17/rafael-c...


New Op Ed in the NY Times:

But the confusion in London has, in fact, little if anything to do with Ecuadorean-British relations and everything to do with regional and local politics in the Western Hemisphere. And it has little to do with protecting Mr. Assange’s right to a fair trial or freedom of the press — which Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has trampled upon at home.

Instead, it is an attempt by Mr. Correa to settle old scores with the United States, display his political prowess in the run-up to Ecuadorean presidential elections next year and make a power play for a leadership role on the Latin American left.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/opinion/why-correa-lets-as...


Political points. They can trade them in with the UK, or look good in Latin America.


The article fails to point out that there is substantial precedent for the UK to ignore extradition requests by other EU members. Augusto Pinochet is perhaps an obvious example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indictment_and_arrest_of_August...

Although I am loathe to rank vile behavior in general, crimes against humanity would seem to demand more careful consideration during extradition proceedings than the allegations against Mr. Assange.


This seems to be an allusion to the popular principal of "The Law Of Travesty", which asserts that if someone has benefited from a legal travesty (such as Spain's inability to extradite Pinochet from the UK), justice demands that everyone else benefit from the same travesty.

In fact, justice demands the opposite. Pinochet was protected from extradition because he, unlike Assange, was a head of state and enjoyed a supposed immunity from prosecution as a result. The hesitation to force Pinochet to face due process for his (very compellingly) alleged crimes is a travesty. In recognizing that a travesty occurred, we don't just award points to one state and accord demerits to another: we also seek to avoid the recurrence of that travesty in the future.


Pinochet was protected from extradition because he, unlike Assange, was a head of state and enjoyed a supposed immunity from prosecution as a result.

I'm sure it was also quite helpful that he was friendly with various high ranking British politicians, meeting Thatcher several times, and helping them with a little war they had in the South Atlantic.


I believe the English law system is based on common law, meaning that cases stack and can use precedents from earlier cases.


The precedent that you are referring to here is what? That Assange, as a foreign head of state, is immune to extradition?


I believe the precedent being cited is that the general welfare may be more important than black letter law.


I'm pretty sure that's not a precedent set by the failure to extradite Pinochet, who was a genocidal tyrant.


So does American law, but you are clearly misunderstanding what "precedent" means.

Judicial decisions operate as precedent. Executive decisions do not. A judicial decision that Pinochet could not be extradited would be precedent; a decision not to extradite him would not be. The distinction is that the actual decision to extradite or not is based on both circumstances unique to the case and to the particular views of the administration making the decision.


English common law operates on precedent.


I'm assuming the article is accurate, in which case there's pretty much no reason for Assange not to go to Sweden and clear all this up, unless of course he's guilty.

Certainly as things stand he gives a lot of people -- myself included -- the impression that he's guilty, and if the only reason he has for not wanting to face the music in Sweden is that he's afraid of extradition to the US then, assuming the article is accurate, he's damaging his cause by fighting extradition.


I'm not saying he is innocent, but if he is, he has every reason to believe this is a politically-motivated frame-up. So, if he is innocent, why go to Sweden? Probably, even as an innocent person, the frame-up would succeed.

As such, his unwillingness to go hardly says anything about his guilt or non-guilt.


> I'm not saying he is innocent, but if he is, he has every reason to believe this is a politically-motivated frame-up

If he is in fact guilty then it would be rather odd for him to regard this as a politically-motivated frame-up, so I guess you are saying he's innocent.

I think it is implausible that politics have not played some kind of role in proceedings (e.g. the linked article does not explain the use of an Interpol "red notice"). But if it were a frame-up you'd think the accusations would be more serious and consistent. If he were to go to Sweden and then suddenly be extradited to the US to face serious criminal charges it seems to me that this would make his case.

So, I think it makes him look guilty.


Would any one really trust the due course of law argument after the Kim Dotcom incident. Basically it can now be argued that the US can get who ever it wants from where ever they are for what ever their crimes are.


That being the case, what does it matter what country Assange is in? If it's all the same be he in New Zealand, Sweden, or the UK, shouldn't he be required to face charges in Sweden?


One possible explanation is it would be harder to fight US extradition if he's under arrest in Sweden or jailed.


See rest of thread. The whole article is about refuting that idea (/"misconception").


Kim Dotcom's situation isn't that unusual. To whatever extent law enforcement overstepped their bounds, due process will eventually prevail. He's still in New Zealand after all.


>To whatever extent law enforcement overstepped their bounds, due process will eventually prevail.

You have a lot more faith in the infallibility of our justice system that I do. For example: http://www.change.org/freedaniel


Not at all, it's just nothing that unusual.


Now that we know Karl Rove is advising the Swedish government in the prosecution of Assange, I think it is completely reasonable to assume the worst with regard to Sweden's intentions about extraditing.

I think this article makes a much more convincing argument about what is going on than the one in the post: http://markcrispinmiller.com/2011/02/eight-big-problems-with...


Wow.

First: your very first sentence does not appear to arrive at its conclusion via logic. Because [KARL ROVE], it asserts, we can assume [INTENT TO EXTRADITE TO US]. That's not even wrong.

Second: it is very much not known that Rove is advising Sweden on the prosecution. The only thing that is known is that Rove, a phenomenally well-known political consultant, was at some point advising the governing party in Sweden. It is not remotely uncommon for US political consultants to work overseas. They aren't advancing US interests when they do that (how could Rove be? He's not an agent of the US government); they're advancing their own wallets.

Your claim is identically as strong as virtually every conspiracy theory ever. Syllogisms with an identical structure are behind the claim that "9/11 was an inside job" and that "Obama is part of a communist conspiracy".


Please re-render your response in predicate calculus


"Ecuador has a woeful record on freedom of the press. It is 104th in the index of world press freedom"

US is ranked 47th. This effectively puts Ecuador in the same category as the US. Look at the color codes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index.

Just because Ecuador isn't perfect hardly precludes it from trying to do the right thing in this instance.


The RSF full press freedom index isn't color coded. There are 57 countries --- 1/3rd of the entire survey --- in between the US and Ecuador, including several liberal European countries. This is a flimsy argument.


Well, it is color coded on wikipedia. Further, a gap of 1/3 might not be very significant if the scores are closely packed.

Also regardless, stack ranking is known to be bullshit. Ask any current or former Microsoft employee :)


The scores are not closely packed. Not only that: the US was #20 on the World Press Freedom Index in the survey immediately prior to this one, and lost places due to municipal arrests of journalists covering Occupy.

The idea that the press freedom situation in the US is comparable to the press freedom of a country in which the ruling party seizes television stations, jails the owners of newspapers for allowing the publication of unfavorable columns, and levies $2MM fines against book authors is far past ludicrous.


I'm not saying the press freedom situation is comparable... Reporters Without Borders is. Maybe their index is total nonsense. I would readily believe that. However, in the absence of better data, I'll take the word of an organization dedicated to the issue, over your opinion.


RSF is not saying that. Your argument is innumerate and, in suggesting that "I'm not saying the US and Ecuador are comparable, RSF is, and I'll take their word over yours", illogical.


Where do those color codes come from? The Reporters Without Borders map puts the US and Ecuador in different colors. http://en.rsf.org/IMG/jpg/carte2012.jpg


I honestly don't know where the wikipedia ones come from. On the map you've linked to, they are different, but only by one.


On the map I linked to, Finland and Ecuador are only different by two.


The color-codes do not denote categories...


I found this a very interesting article, particularly the first 4 points (the last is a little more vague).

However, this article mainly helps formalise my previous beliefs, so I wonder if I found it interesting just because it agrees with my point of view?


It is totally possible: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

I like this article because it seems to be more informative than persuasive.


I agree. I don't hold a strong opinion one way or the other in case.

One thing I found interesting was the author's suggestion that the rule of law will result in the appropriate outcome. However, that assessment assumes that the legal system will basically always get it right.

I think that a lot of people are upset specifically because they don't trust the 'rule of law' cannot be subverted for political gain. In this case, it at least seems plausible that the rules of the courts could be influenced by political forces in some way; thus, people lack faith that the legal system in the UK or Sweden will provide what they believe is an appropriate response.


As a test, you could read another article by a legal expert that has a very different tone: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/20/julian-a...

Both articles are fact-based, and neither contradicts the other as far as I can tell. But it's very easy to put a bias on fuzzy political issues.


I'll be a little impolite and reuse my comment on a previous, somewhat similar story:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4404549

I think it contains some information that is relevant for those trying to make sense of this:

I found this overview from the Swedish prosecutor to be very helpful:

http://www.aklagare.se/In-English/Media/The-Assange-Matter/T...

Obviously this is "biased" -- but I've not been able to spot any "overt" errors here. I've been looking at Norwegian and Swedish media in addition to the (pretty fact starved) international media coverage -- and I was also under the impression that Assange wasn't considered a suspect -- he is.

I have no idea why apparently no media source has managed to get this right -- as presented it has appeared that Assange has been wanted extradited to testify -- which makes absolutely no (legal) sense. It would appear that's not what has happened.

My (personal, IANAL etc) interpretation of the events is that a complaint was filed against Assange -- the prosecutor that handled the case found no reason to prosecute. Then (probably due to political pressure -- although I have no evidence of this) -- the head prosecutor picks up the case again, and an arrest warrant is issued.

The whole affair dovetails a little to nicely with CIA procedure for discrediting inconvenient persons, eg:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Webb

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

That being said, it's not inconceivable that Assange is a misogynistic pig -- he certainly appear to have a bit of an ego -- and I don't think anyone would be against him being sentenced in a fair trial.

However, the political pressure involved in this case seems rather extreme -- I do think there's a real danger of Assange disappearing into a black bag at some point -- after all if the US wants him, it would be for espionage -- and kidnapping a single individual is nothing compared to drone strike assassinations.

It is of course inconvenient that this dissident is white, articulate and currently in a country that has a working government.

A Swedish English language media source I discovered recently might also be of interest:

http://www.thelocal.se/42424/20120804/

Additionally, I came across this old piece by Virginia Wolf that also highlights some of the political pressure that seems to be involved in this case:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/post_1435_b_797188....


Virginia Woolf died in 1941, so either the piece must be really old, or you must mean Naomi Wolf. ;-)


Ouch, good catch.

I did of course mean Naomi. Apologies to both Wolves.

You'd think I'd actually look at the byline while I checked the link was the correct one -- oh well.


On the I.Q.Org website, wasn't it Assange who said that he is someone who moves in spy circles? I wonder what happens to spies who are either doing their jobs correctly or become rogue? Manning/ Lamo chat logs also refer to Assange as having a level in the intelligence field. But legal case never mentions it.


This is actually a great point. How many of the people behind/in wikileaks are intelligence assets/agents? Certainly some of them are - or at least they will be monitored. Not doing so would pretty much amount to negligence on part of the intelligence services.

Personally I (somewhat naively perhaps) put more trust in cryptome.org than in wikileaks -- either way cryptome.org also have a few points on this whole thing:

http://cryptome.org/0002/assange-abuse.htm

And related to Assange and wikileaks, see eg: http://cryptome.org/0001/assange-cpunks.htm http://cryptome.org/wikileaks/wikileaks-leak.htm

Note, typically for cryptome.org, these are somewhat exhaustive posts, and leave all digestion very much up-front and in-the-readers-face -- to the point were every reasonable person should start to wonder which part is information, and which is misinformation.

This is AFAIK on purpose - and different from traditional reporting where the journalist will just pretend that whatever is written is the one and only gospel truth -- even though most of what is found in newspapers are riddled with (sometimes minor) factual errors and has an obvious slant ("edtiorial line").

Edit: punctuation.


The difference between Mr. Green and Mr. Assange is: Mr. Green may say "Oh, I was wrong", Mr. Assange might not say anything anymore.




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