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The Curious Case of Assange in Sweden
'There, but for pure luck, go you.'
It's been over four years now. Things are in what they call a 'stalemate' or a 'deadlock'. Julian Assange isn't going to give up the protection of Ecuador and Marianne Ny isn't going to do the obvious thing and question him in London. And so the case goes on - going nowhere. A 'deadlock'. A 'stalemate'.
59 human rights organisations petitioned the United Nations to intervene. Renowned anti-corruption judge Eva Joly tried to intervene. Supreme court justices and former prosecutors have tried to intervene. But to no avail. Marianne Ny will not bring the case to London where it belongs. She will not let the case move forward as it must - as Assange needs.
And she won't say why either. She told TIME back in December 2010 that it was against both British and Swedish law. Which it clearly isn't. Somehow the Swedish media got their report on the TIME interview scrubbed from their websites overnight. Carl Bildt later told Jennifer Robinson that it was 'unconstitutional'. Quite the mouthful - and of course it is not true. (Sweden doesn't really have a constitution anyway.) Then Bildt got more involved, intercepting correspondence from Ecuador on its way to Marianne Ny, with his office issuing official statements on the case, several of which were also exposed as disingenuous. And then she had her own timeline at her own website scrubbed of all details for the month of September 2010.
A new response from Marianne Ny in the current appeal is due any minute now. Actually it was supposed to arrive at the Svea court of appeal by closing time yesterday, but Swedes keep to their hours, and so it probably arrived on time (at the last minute) but no one bothered updating the website at that time of day.
Marianne Ny isn't a lady of a lot of words. She understands English as do all Swedes, but she refuses to answer questions from the global media in English, and will instead call in an interpreter. Her judicial statements have the same ring: this is my deal, it's really no one else's business.
Four years down the road it's hard for some to remember how this whole thing started and what's transpired since August 2010. This website's published over 700 articles on the Assange case; the sister site's got another 300 or so. A lot has happened, a lot of water's gone under the bridge.
Things started on Friday 20 August 2010 when a freelance photographer got a message on his cell whilst covering the annual prime minister crayfish party in Harpsund. He was wanted by tabloid Expressen for some emergency shooting. The police were close to rounding up WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on allegations of double rape and wouldn't it make a splash with a front page photo of the man being led away in handcuffs?
Sitting next to this photographer out in the balmy summer weather was the same tabloid's premier reporter Niklas Svensson. Svensson is by far the highest paid reporter in Sweden. His salary is only beat by some of the editors in chief. Svensson sees the message on the photographer's cell and understands immediately he has to get in on the scoop. And according to his own account, he races double speed through the light evening traffic back to the tabloid's HQ in Marieberg.
The time is 19:52. The article that's finally published comes nine hours later. First on the story is Diamant Salihu who rang up the prosecutor on duty to ask if what he'd been told is true. (He's thought to be the one who subsequently rang the photographer.)
Oh it's true, said the prosecutor, he's wanted for questioning on double rape, she said, thereby giving away unsolicited and confidential information and breaking her oath of office. (She wasn't reprimanded either: the Swedes dropped the investigation.)
At 05:00 AM on the morning of 21 August 2010, the story broke - only in Expressen. And it took hours - close to half a day - until the story got legs. None of the other Swedish media organisations picked it up. (Svensson tweeted like a maniac for hours, and tried to claim the story for his own; he was called out on that and later apologised.)
Rick Falkvinge picked it up right away. He was woken early that Saturday morning with the news, and immediately prepared a special notice to members of his Pirate Party, instructing them how to handle questions about the case. The party had only days earlier entered into a 'colocation agreement' to host servers for WikiLeaks; that strategic move now threatened to backfire. 'If they ask about Assange, tell them we don't know the man', Falkvinge's letter said. 'We signed a contract with WikiLeaks, not Assange.'
Rape is a taboo thing. Presumption of innocence works well enough in most places and countries - but not when it comes to rape. Not many people know much about rape, only that it's violent and ugly. But they know they hate it, either because they really understand it or because they're taught to hate it. You can't accuse someone of rape and not expect the trauma of the accusation to rub off in no time flat. By later that very same day, Google had over 5,000,000 hits on a search for 'Assange+rape'. Assange was already a convicted man.
And that's only scratching the surface, for as of 1991 in Sweden, presumption of innocence doesn't apply in sex cases in the country. It's presumption of guilt instead. (And for the record, sex crime legislation only applies to crimes perpetrated by men against women, even though statistically 70% of incidents of domestic violence are initiated by women, by their own admission.)
Police in Sweden are formally instructed in how to conduct their criminal investigations. Cases where it's one word against another are touchy. This applies doubly in Sweden where types of evidence not allowed in other countries get a free pass in Sweden. Things like circumstantial evidence and hearsay are concepts to many - they're seen all the time in courtroom dramas. And they're not allowed. 'Objection, your honour! Circumstantial! And so forth. But they get a free pass in Sweden. The Swedes have a fancy name for this. They called it 'free evidentiary evaluation'. But what it means in most cases is that judges can convict on things that would be laughed out of court almost anywhere else.
So if it's word against word, and this can happen very often, the police are instructed to evaluate carefully - and if there exists a reasonable explanation to the benefit of the accused, they have to accept it. For after all, nothing can be proven anyway. It's only word against word. And with no evidence, one can't convict, right?
That was right until 1991. The radical groups in Sweden were getting increasingly frustrated by the low conviction rate in sex crime cases. So Sweden's supreme court decided to step in. And in a landmark ruling, they set down the protocol for all future sex crime cases.
The testimony of the woman always holds. No matter what. Except if the woman keeps changing her story. It doesn't matter if the suspect has an explanation that's just as plausible as the woman - her account is still the truth.
In most jurisdictions outside Sweden, that's called presumption of guilt.
What that means in common practice is as simple as this. You could be walking down the street in a strange town where you know no one; a woman can get a glimpse of you, and march right into a police station and accuse you of rape. You can complain all you like, but if her story's good enough, you'll be convicted. Men suspects have no rights in sex cases in Sweden.
Julian Assange was obviously in a tizz on that Saturday. Obviously he made some calls, asking who's the best lawyer in Sweden. He was told it was Leif Silbersky.
Leif Silbersky is indeed the country's most famous lawyer. He's also an author, having penned several crime novels. Silbersky got his start with the even more famous 'Henning Penning' Sjöström in the famous Advokathuset on Riddargatan on Östermalm.
Silbersky was involved at the time in the high profile 'helicopter robbery' case. Yes, a bunch of ambitious robbers had actually tried using helicopters in a big scale robbery; they'd been caught, and Silbersky was called in to defend them.
Silbersky couldn't devote much time to Assange, what with the helicopter trial going on at the same time. As a matter of fact, the one interrogation Assange was asked to participate in, on 30 August 2010, happened late in the afternoon so Silbersky had time to get across town after the trial closed for the day.
Leif Silbersky was eventually replaced by Björn Hurtig, a lawyer who'd moonlighted as a television star. Hurtig is very low key, but known for being very supportive of his clients. He represented the poor woman harassed by the system for a ridiculous charge related to her work as anaesthesiologist at the Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital. She was eventually acquitted, but her life was ruined.
Hurtig was Assange's lawyer through the autumn months when the bizarre exchanges with Marianne Ny took place.
The case of Assange in Sweden should not be about Assange as a person; this article shouldn't be about him either. Both are about a judicial system completely out of control.
People don't like to think about things like this. From Monday to Friday they're too busy with their wearisome jobs and commuting to and fro, and at the weekends they just want to chill and relax. Scary stories about one's judicial system are things they just don't want to know anything about - until such a fate befalls them personally.
And that's where it hits. 'There, but for pure luck, go I.'
There, but for pure luck, go you - just like Julian Assange. Assange didn't pursue any women in Sweden - they pursued him. The one orchestrated an ambush at her own flat that she'd promised to Assange (and only Assange) for his entire stay.
Assange was to switch locations on Saturday 14 August. He was to be taken care of by Rick Falkvinge and the Pirate Party after the talk he gave that day. But that first woman changed all that. She jumped Assange the day before, took him out to dinner that night to 'discuss the situation', and then got him into her bed. And as she later told friends - and this is in the official police protocol - 'I'm so proud I got the world's coolest guy into my flat and into my bed'.
The other girl came out of nowhere. She and the first girl weren't acquainted. She applied for a seat at Assange's talk long after all the seats had been taken, and somehow got a seat anyway. She showed up in a tight shocking pink jumper and sat front row, clicking her camera throughout the talk like eyelashes blinking. She sidled up to the conference organiser, got an invitation to a lunch afterwards with Assange, managed to sit beside him through that lunch - and still Assange didn't notice her. A woman of few words - and definitely in an unfamiliar crowd - she didn't say a word until that cringeworthy remark about Assange's hard bread cheese sandwich. 'Does it taste good?' What would a Swede say to that? It's just hard bread and cheese! But she asked, and Assange was kind enough to respond. It must have made her flutter when he invited her to take a bite - as if she'd never before tasted a Swedish hard bread sandwich with cheese on top.
A top Swedish journalist asked Assange to follow him after the lunch, but the girl was there too, and she got Assange to accompany her back to her place of work, a museum north of town with a big cinema. There she proceeded to make out with Assange in a back row, then remark she was embarrassed when the film was over, then rush back to her mates at the museum to tell them who she'd been making out with.
Both of the cases concern not rape as we normally think of it, but of strange use of a condom. The first girl says she can't be sure what happened, she actually saw nothing, but still and all believes that the man she pursued and seduced must have somehow torn the condom at one point. She further says it must have happened on purpose, even though she saw nothing.
The other girl says that when she finally got Assange between the sheets, things went slow because he was dog tired; but then they got at it and went at it a number of times with a condom; and that she then somehow discovered him initiating another round in the early morning hours - 09:00 to 10:00 it's presumed - without a condom. Whereupon she asked him if he had a condom, he answered 'no', she commented 'well you better not have an STD', he replied 'of course not', and they got back to it again. This is the incident that the first prosecutor, Eva Finné, one of the most respected prosecutors in the country, dismissed as 'no crime committed', and that the second prosecutor, called in by the disgraced Claes Borgstöm, calls rape. And it's that accusation that has Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy to this day.
The case bounced back and forth throughout the autumn. Assange wasn't under arrest, he had his passport, he turned up for an interrogation on 30 August; he stayed on, not at the behest of the authorities, but because he wanted the case out of the way. The damage to his organisation was considerable - he wanted to restore that reputation. Always eager to move the case forward, he had his lawyer contact the new prosecutor, try to arrange a new interrogation so he could have his own say in the matter, but got told 'no' time and again. One must suspect that Marianne Ny is not too experienced in such matters.
When Assange finally felt his own schedule pressing - and remember he's presumed innocent until found guilty - he asked Hurtig to tell Ny he needed to leave the country. Ny told Hurtig that was fine - and then she would later claim she almost immediately changed her mind?
Things took a definite turn for the worse in October. Assange was scheduled to return to Stockholm, give a talk in the city, and march side by side with the mother of modern Swedish radical feminism, this in a protest against the US war in Afghanistan. But something happened. (That 'radical feminist' has since come out in support of Assange.)
Marianne Ny knew Assange was on his way back. In secret, she issued a warrant for his arrest as soon as he left for the airport in September; but the warrant was not propagated to the airport and other ports of call; others knew of Assange's imminent departure as well, for his luggage was dextrously 'disappeared' after check-in, and the subsequent police investigation was railroaded. At the same time, a report came into the Flashback forum from a member of one of Sweden's intel agencies: at an annual hunting weekend with campfires and the whole ball of wax, Assange became the topic of fireside discussion, whereupon it was revealed that no less than three separate agencies had been tasked with following Assange's every footstep. Without the other agencies knowing. Until the campfire chat. And that's of course not including foreign spooks.
The tabloid Expressen could report on Assange's every move as early as 14 August, with details that no one could possibly have known about, unless Assange was being tailed (likely) or the second girl was working with the spooks (that's been a hot theory for some time).
One very well known journalist in Stockholm has reportedly told others in confidence that the second girl is one of the best honeypots in town. A spook group from a foreign country has reportedly had information to offer on the same girl. Neither lead has ever been followed up.
Marianne Ny's assistant contacted Hurtig immediately prior to Assange's planned return to Stockholm. Hurtig was told to stay in his office after hours the evening of Assange's new speech, as Marianne Ny planned to have Assange arrested and in custody. This is all born out by Hurtig's submissions to the Stockholm court and corroboration from Ny's assistant who had to approve Hurtig's bill to the court.
Assange never showed. Someone tipped him off. Perhaps it was Hurtig, but perhaps not, as he might have been notified too late to stop Assange from returning. But someone was able to contact Assange and warn him of Ny's double cross. So he never showed. And it's likely that at that point, if not sooner, Assange understood he wasn't dealing with an ordinary judicial case.
The whispers were all about Stockholm: Marianne Ny was going to have Assange arrested in absentia. A court date was set to 18 November. One Swedish writer referred to it indirectly in an op-ed. Assange continued his work, only days away from the release of the Iraq War Logs, and preparing for the preliminaries on Cablegate in Ellingham outside London.
The Stockholm district court approved the arrest warrant on 18 November. Hurtig got to see the infamous SMS messages for the first time, and felled his famous comment.
'If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade.'
Hurtig appealed to Svea, the same court handling the current petition, and they rubber stamped the district court decision. Hurtig appealed to the supreme court, but they refused to hear the case.
Four EAW filings later (she isn't very skilled on international stuff) Marianne Ny finally ticked all the boxes right - she got help from a lawyer in the US, believe it or not - and Assange dutifully turned himself in at a police station in the UK.
And so the siege began.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum only because they tried everything possible to avoid that situation and found that there were no alternatives, that no one was willing to cooperate. Most importantly, the Swedes wouldn't even give an informal guarantee that Assange wouldn't end up in their 'revolving door' temporary surrender agreement with the US.
The Swedes have had two such agreements over the years, signed for the Swedes by Lennart Bodström and by his son Thomas, first in the 1980s when Lennart was Palme's minster for justice, and later in the 2000s when Thomas became a new MFJ. Curiously Thomas, perhaps not the brightest tool in the shed, blankly denied Sweden even had such an agreement, only for this site to produce the document in question.
Assange's current lawyers are the best in the country. Per E Samuelson ('PES' for short, and only one 's' at the end of the family name) should be familiar to all who followed the live stream of the trial of The Pirate Bay. A quiet man, and author of the definitive tome on the art of cross examination, Samuelson picked apart John Kennedy of the IFPI with such subtlety that Kennedy didn't know what he was doing. (Not that it mattered with the rubber stamp verdict of course - a verdict that the representatives of the media corporations praised within minutes of supposedly seeing the thick document for the first time - but that's another matter. Samuelson is one of the best in the land.)
Thomas Olsson ('TO' for short, so together they're increasingly - and affectionately - called 'PESTO' - but not from Genoa obviously) used to be with Leif Silbersky's firm, and was considered the 'white knight' in sex crime cases, fighting an unfair system (and winning all the time). He declared rather dramatically that he'd never again take on a sex crime case, as they were so filthy with corruption.
Olsson went on to represent Sture Bergwall, the notorious 'serial killer' who never killed anyone in his life. Olsson got all eight idiotic verdicts against Bergwall overturned; Bergwall is today a free man after years upon years of incarceration, and spends his days writing beautiful prose and poetry and living in a state of wonder at how beautiful this planet is (yes really).
Olsson - and Bergwall - were up against it all the way. The most infamous case ever in the country's history, it had a cocktail of different forms of corruption all serving to ruin Bergwall's life. There was the crazy psychiatrist who thought she was onto a great discovery; there was the psychiatric guru who led them all and refused to accept the fact that her own theories had been globally debunked years earlier; there was the 'repressed memory expert' who admitted that the guru was a 'mother' of a sort to him; there was the policeman who broke all the rules in the actual investigation; there was the ambitious prosecutor who wanted to get out of the cold north of the country and into a plush office in the capital; and finally there was the very agreeable public defender who agreed to do nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing when he saw full well what was going on, all in exchange for half a million US dollars (yes half a million). And that lawyer is none other than Claes Borgström, the same one who petitioned Marianne Ny to reopen the Assange case.
That rotten stench isn't coming from Denmark this time.
What exactly is Assange accused of anyway?
Take the more serious case first - the one holding him in the embassy in London. The accusation boils down to the following. That Assange namely was very aware that he should be using a condom with the girl, that after having sex with her four or five times already that night he must have understood, and that for a few seconds he'd started to initiate sex again - for the fifth or sixth time - without one.
This incident - this 'crime' according to Marianne Ny but not according to the more routined Eva Finné - was for a duration of only a few seconds. After which the girl felt OK about the whole thing anyway.
Marianne Ny is also trying to claim that the girl was asleep when Assange began, something that's hard to establish when she and Assange are, by her own account, engaged in conversation only seconds later. And as the SMS messages supposedly point out, the girl wasn't 'half asleep' as her free-form report (written not by her but by the first girl's friend at the police station) said, but 'half awake'. The point must in any case be moot, as she and Assange discussed the matter immediately. Perhaps Assange had misunderstood, or not understood at all? Perhaps Assange had not understood he was doing something wrong? It's only the word of one against the other - and not so much the word of the girl as the word of Marianne Ny.
The other girl? This is where things really get murky. The other girl ambushed Assange in her flat. The flat was for Assange until Saturday afternoon; she offered her flat to her boss to offer to Assange; she was supposed to leave him alone until after the talk (or at the earliest the morning of the talk when she might be expected to return for a change of clothes, to freshen up, etc - she was also to assist in the talk). But she came back a day early, to corner Assange in her flat.
The girl had a reputation in her school years as a 'trophy hunter'. Specifically she relished seducing the boyfriends of her own girlfriends. The nickname they gave her in that school was pejorative to say the least; and when she finally got Mr WikiLeaks where she wanted him, she told a friend and journalist - and today it's part of the police documents:
'I'm so proud I got the world's coolest guy into my flat and into my bed.'
For someone who later claimed she'd been 'molested', she was very cool about it: she organised a last minute party for Assange in her flat the following evening, and boasted to her friends that she'd had sex with him. She was also asked by both Rick Falkvinge, who expected to be taking Assange away, and a journalist that she would continue to house Assange. That's strange behaviour for someone who would later claim she had been molested.
But it gets worse: for somehow during her own interrogation, which took place by telephone the day after the first police contact, after embellishing with details she absolutely didn't need to offer, she was asked if she perhaps had the condom she claimed she suspected Assange had deliberately torn (even though she admitted she hadn't seen anything). And unfortunately for her, and despite a full week having gone by since the alleged incident, she said 'yes'.
It was only a matter of hours before the police arrived at her flat. To pick up the magic condom that had somehow survived a week and day. And had somehow been torn.
Why didn't she understand that the crime lab would perform a DNA test on the condom?
The condom she gave to the police - the condom she claimed she and Assange had used for sex, the condom she claimed she suspected Assange had torn on purpose - had no traces of DNA. Which is scientifically impossible. Wash all you want, expose to ultraviolet light, sear it with a light sabre - you can't get the DNA off. And the worst: it should have been soaked in her DNA as well. But it wasn't. It had no genomic DNA whatsoever.
A clarification: there are two types of DNA. One is the above mentioned genomic DNA. This is the DNA that can identify us. This DNA is unique for every human being on the planet (or on any planet, if that were possible, thank you Mr Branson).
There is another type of DNA. That's a DNA that cannot identify us. And that DNA is found only on a few places on the human body. Such as hair and fingernails.
The condom that girl gave to the police had a bit of this latter type of DNA. But not the other type which would have to be present for the girl's story to hold.
The lab report on the condom came back to police inspector Mats Gehlin on 25 October. Long after Marianne Ny would have claimed she had 'new evidence' to reopen the case. (That's not a formality but it's the normal procedure. Marianne Ny has never explained her justification for having the case reopened or what was wrong with Eva Finné's assessment.)
The lab report was back long before Marianne Ny moved to 'Plan B'. But by then she knew that Assange knew. Knew that the case wasn't 'on the up and up'.
Two girls. One is an infamous trophy hunter. Who bragged about her conquest after the conquest she'd later claim was a sex crime. Who faked damage to a condom to back up her story.
The other is rumoured to be an accomplished honeypot. Who perhaps - perhaps - had 'conditional sex' with Assange for a matter of seconds.
A prosecutor working with the only disgraced lawyer in the country. Who sets up an ambush but is foiled. Who lets Assange leave the country, only to issue a secret warrant for his arrest two hours after he leaves for the airport but another two hours before his plane leaves - without the police being notified. All the while other authorities are obviously informed, as his three laptops, to be delivered to Berlin, are 'disappeared', the subsequent investigation into their disappearance run into the ground.
Any court - any police authority - in any other country anywhere would have tossed out this case long ago. On the grounds that there is no case to begin with, and on the grounds that there are simply too many ways in which this case stinks.
Remember: you have no rights in Sweden. There, as Julian Assange and but for pure luck, go you.
Before the United Nations this Sunday, 26 international human rights, fair trial, and jurist organisations, and 33 Latin American civil society organisations, condemned Sweden's violation of the fundamental human rights of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who has experienced protracted pre-charge detention stemming from a Swedish investigation which has yet to charge him. Mr Assange's pre-charge detention has spanned nearly four years as a US Federal Grand Jury prepares a criminal case against WikiLeaks and its officers.
Two Swedish organisations, as well as jurist organisations from around the world including the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the Indian Association of Lawyers submitted two reports - one in English and one in Spanish - each highlighted various procedural rights violations of Julian Assange, Sweden's longest running case of pre-trial deprivation of liberty.
A third report, signed by 33 human rights groups, media and civil society organisations, and unions, including the Global Women's March (Marcha Mundial das Mulheres, MMM), petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva to intervene to free the 'political prisoner' Julian Assange.
- 59 International Organisations Call Upon UN to Remedy Human Rights Violations in Pre-Charge Detention of WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange