Assange’s Stockholm Syndrome

Over the past couple of days the news that Julian Assange has lost his appeal for extradition to Sweden. As someone who considers himself a progressive, one of the most disappointing aspects of this case for me has been watching a slew of other progressives falling over themselves to embrace the worst kind of crackpot conspiracy theories. In doing so, they mostly demonstrate my view that the most accurate words a conspiracy theorist utters is when they say, “You can’t tell me that…”

Let me start by saying I have no idea whether Assange is guilty or innocent of rape. Incidentally, the appeal was equally not concerned with his guilt or innocence; merely whether he should go to Sweden and answer questions about an alleged offence. That much should be a no-brainer. Of course he should. For a more detailed response, and if you don’t feel like trawling through the 161 paragraphs of Legalese that constituted the appeal’s judgement, then I recommend David Allen Green’s New Statesman blog. Green is author of the staunchly liberal Jack of Kent blog, and is unlikely to be a CIA agent. He writes,

Assange had appealed on four grounds against the decision of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. However, the High Court dismissed each of these grounds: the warrant had been validly issued, the offences specified existed in both Sweden and the United Kingdom, the request was proportionate, and the conduct alleged amounted to a criminal offence.

Accordingly, the High Court held that the European Arrest Warrant for Assange in respect of the offences of rape, two counts of sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion, was entirely valid.

This decision is no great surprise; for Assange to have succeeded, it would have effectively required the High Court to undermine the entire EAW system.

The 161 paragraphs of the full judgment completely dismantle the four grounds of the Assange’s appeal. The two judges, including the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, provide detailed and thorough reasoning as to how each of the contentions of the Assange legal team do not succeed. It is thereby unlikely that this is a case that the Supreme Court will hear, even if there is an attempt at a further appeal.

All this seems pretty straightforward. A valid request has been made for him to be sent to Sweden and be questioned about acts that are a criminal offence in both Sweden and the UK, so he should go. If he insists he’s been stitched up by the Yanks, he should still go, and he should tell a Swedish judge he’s been stitched up by the Yanks.

Despite this, a chorus of voices across the internet are loudly insisting that because somebody did something fairly laudable in the public domain, they couldn’t possibly have also done something unpleasant in their private life. Apparently the two are mutually exclusive.

I wouldn’t mind getting credited with coining a psychological phrase, so I shall refer to this piece of cognitive dissonance as “doing a Polanski”.

So, let me get the conspiracy theory straight, as far as I can gather from browsing Comment is Free discussion threads and the #Assange Twitter hashtag.

The amount of rubbish being spoken by some of his supporters just beggars belief, with nominally left-wing people suddenly announcing that,

Sweden is to feminism as the Taliban are to Islam.

…or making comments such as

There are no charges against him. Nothing alleged by these two amounts to a sex crime in England.

…which immediately demonstrates that the person writing this hasn’t read the appeal judgement.

And there’s comments such as this

You said it – ALLEGATIONS of sexual offending.

Is this what the European extradition warrant is for?


Let’s summarise the conspiracy. The plot has been hatched by a malevolent union of the CIA and radical feminists. Well, that makes sense. Those two groups work together all the time! Practically ideological soulmates. And they want to move Assange from Britain to Sweden to make him easier to extradite to the United States.

Let me repeat that again, just to emphasise how silly it is. They want to move Assange from Britain to Sweden to make him easier to extradite to the United States.

Do I even have to deconstruct this? Can’t I just post a macro and take the rest of this blog post off to go and have a coffee?

If that was the plan, wouldn’t it be easier to…Oh, I don’t know, try to extradite him from Britain to the United States? After all, we’re Britain! When the US says, “Jump”, we say, “Would you like an infantry brigade with that?” Yet supposedly we’re less likely to send him giftwrapped on a plan to Gitmo than the liberal-lefty Swedes.

Ultimately, I’ll refer the reader back to David Allen Green, when he said on Twitter, “If you want to see lots of people very angry at prospect of alleged rapist finally answering any questions, then do follow #Assange tag.”

4 thoughts on “Assange’s Stockholm Syndrome

  1. “doing a Polanski”. enough said!

  2. why don’t you do some researh before you write? If you did you would find out that Sweden has an extradition mechanism that the UK lacks – from Sweden people an be extradited on a system of ‘temporary removal’, even when they are currently charged with another crime in Sweden.

    The UK lacks this, because of the various provisions contained within common law, magna carta etc – rights and conditions which Sweden, a more corporatist society, lacks.

    Thus Gary MacKinnon, put on the ‘fast track’ to extradition from the UK to the US, has been in the legal process of extradition for three years. In Swede this could be done far more rapidly.

    Very few people are arguing that there is some uber conspiracy between radical feminists and the pro-US Swedish government. what is being argued is that a case which began with some allegations against assange, was dismissed by a prosecutor, and then restarted on appeal, has had some political interference at that stage of the process.

    evidence in favour of that is the involvement of Claes Borgstrom, a political heavy, as the lawyer of the two women complainants (imagine if jack straw suddenly turned up as a lawyer on a legal aid case and you get the impact). Borgstrom’s firm is Borgstrom and Bodstrom – Tomas Bodstrom being the justice minister who authorised the illegal rendition of Swedish Islamic citizens to Guantanamo in the eraly 2000s.

    A little more smoke than you suggest, in other words, and your ignorance of facts in the case puts your sarcasm in a bad light. yr entitled to yr opinion, but try and make it an informed one.

    I’d suggest that resisting extradition to a country which has no jury trials, closed courts on sex crime cases, conducted in a language you dont speak, is part of the presumption of innocence – like the right to remain silent. what o you think?

    • I have indeed been doing some research. Mostly reading blogs by lawyers. By and large, they don’t seem at all surprised that his extradition appeal failed. I’ve browsed the judgement and, although I don’t speak Legalese, 161 paragraphs seems like a pretty thorough response.

      The lawyers I’ve read also seem pretty skeptical about the idea that Assange would be more likely to be extradited from Sweden than from the UK. In fact they take the opposite view – see here and here. Quick quote from the second link.

      But McNabb argues that even in spite of that potential loophole, Assange has a better shot of staying out of American hands in Sweden than he would have in the United Kingdom, where the Extradition Act practically pre-ordains his trip to America. “It would be almost certain in the UK,” says McNabb. “In Sweden, it’s a toss-up.”

      I’m surprised by your suggestion that he shouldn’t face charges because he doesn’t speak the local language. I can’t think of a single country in the world that would fail to press charges purely on those grounds. This what interpreters are for.

  3. Pingback: Welcome to Tuesday! ~ 8th November 2011 | feminaust ~ for australian feminism

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