Time to put Assange on trial

Fugitive Julian Assange has been unlawfully at large for the past six weeks, holed up in a London embassy, but there is a way to resolve this situation, if the Swedish authorities are not acting as American sockpuppets.

The history of this case and how Assange came to be holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy is well documented, but for those unfamiliar with it, few in number, a reasonable summary can be found on that font of all knowledge Wikipedia, and on numerous news sites, including this one.

Normally when a celebrity is accused of rape there is a chorus of the usual suspects making unpleasant noises about his alleged crimes, the abuse of women, and so on, but the reaction to the allegations against Assange - by two women - has been muted, to put it mildly. There are two reasons for this; the first being that even the loony feminists smelled a rat; the second is that the charges appear contrived, to put it mildly.

Assange appears to have at worst exercised poor judgment. A good looking guy, well spoken, charismatic, not at all like Justin Bieber, flitting around the globe like a latter day Scarlet Pimpernel, he is the sort of man a certain type of woman gravitates toward. He formed two liaisons with Swedish women, who are renowned for you know what, they offered it to him on a plate, and he took it.

Let us not dwell on that sordid business about condoms, but if anyone believes they offer any sort of protection against undesirable infections, she should think again.

Leaving aside any ulterior motives or otherwise, Assange has now broken the law in this country, and his only excuse is duress due to a well founded fear of political persecution, though it remains to be seen if that would cut any ice with the British courts, especially as it took the same magistrate who heard his extradition case five days to resolve the case of John Terry, who was alleged to have committed a “crime” that nobody actually heard.

At the moment we have the classic case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object; the big question is, can the deadlock be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties? The short answer is no, but there is a way to resolve it if the Swedish authorities are indeed sincere.

In December 1988, a far more serious crime than any sort of rape or breach of bail was committed when a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270 people: everyone on board and 11 people on the ground. The authorities in America and elsewhere built a case against two Libyan men, said to be government agents: Lamin Khalifah Fhimah and Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. The big problem was that they were in Libya, and the country’s then leader, Colonel Gaddafi, refused to allow them to be extradited.

Eventually, after years of negotiations and political pressure, they were both sent to The Hague where a special court was convened, a Scottish court presided over by three judges and a non-voting judge. The lengthy proceedings resulted in the acquittal of Fhimah and the conviction of al-Megrahi. He appealed his conviction, and the court was reconvened; his appeal was dismissed, and he was returned to the Scottish prison where he was serving his life sentence.

If the American authorities were prepared to go to such extraordinary lengths to ensure that two men accused of one of the most heinous terrorist crimes in history received a fair trial, then the Swedish authorities should be prepared to go to similar lengths to ensure that Assange receives one. If Assange were to be convicted, what sort of sentence would he receive, realistically for two sex “crimes” which in Britain would not be classed as rape and would almost certainly not have resulted in charges?

The way out of this situation is, clearly, for the Ecuadorian authorities to offer to convene a Swedish criminal court in their embassy. They have already made an offer of a similar nature, but this has been rejected.

There is absolutely no reason a Swedish court could not be so convened and Assange tried. If convicted and given a custodial sentence, he could then be extradited to Sweden to serve the rest of his sentence. Rest being the operative word as the conditions under which he is living amount less to house arrest than actual detention.

If on the other hand the Swedish authorities refuse this reasonable request, then Assange could apply for and receive Ecuadorian citizenship, be hired by the Government, given diplomatic immunity, then fly off to into the sunset to begin a new life as an information consultant or some such in South America.

[The above op-ed was first published August 2, 2012; the original wasn’t archived. I’m not sure if I uploaded the associated image.]

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