All the right thinking (by which I mean Left thinking) folk have been lining up in support of Julian Assange. All well and good. But do they have their causes confused?
On last Thursday's (16th Dec) 's R4 'World at One', Josefin Brink from Sweden's Vänsterpartiet ('Left Party')1 made the good point that a) The exposure of government lies, double-dealing and general shadiness and b) the alleged rapes of two women are separate issues.
She reminded us that there have been numerous cases of famous men being accuesed of rape, and everyone says "Oh, how could it have been him? He's such a nice guy!" Often, though, our hero has turned out to be a rapist, and people find this concept difficult to accept. She stressed that she's not saying Assange is guilty - but there's one proper place to decide the issue: the court.
The general assumption appears to be that the rape allegations have been trumped up by Dark Forces. One of the victims has been 'linked' (whatever that means) to the CIA. All this might be more than conspiracy theory - after all, remember back to when Anti-Apartheid Activist Peter Hain was fitted up for bank robbery by the South African BOSS, with the compliance of the Met?
Now I accept that the Scandiwegian nations aren't as squeaky lean as they like to believe.: a browse through a Stieg Larsson or Henning Mankell novel suggests an underbelly. But I wonder...if you wanted to bang up a troublemaker for political reasons, which jurisdiction might you find most amenable? Britain? Australia? Sweden? Myself, if I were looking for a fair trial (and a clean, non-Dickensian cell), I know where I'd be headed.
There's also a feminist angle missing here. (I note, with mild surprise, the involvement of Helena Kennedy QC. a leading advocate for justice for women, in this case). From the pro-Assange camp, there have been complaints that the Swedish definition of rape is somewhat more liberal than in other countries. I'm struggling to see their point here. Sweden is also - at least, theoretically - more robust than many in prosecuting rape1. If this is the case, the proof or innocence of a case may turn on complicated matters than whether the man can be proved to have held the woman down at knifepoint. There seem from the allegations here to be prima facie grounds. Granted, there appears in Swedes to uncertainty over whether evidence supports rape or lesser molestation charges, but again...this reflects the complexity of the issues and its why the allegations need to be examined in a court. Surely?
Isn't it somewhat disturbing that some of Assange's supporters have been so ready to dismiss the allegations a priori?
1. But note my 'dark underbelly' comments: below the surface, Swedish men are no more reconstructed than any. Stieg Larsson was making a point with the original, Swedish title of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo' ('Män som hatar kvinnor'): Men who hate women.