|Home » Learning Curve
Making Sense of Julian Assange
Asking a few key questions.
Most people know the story by now. At least the basic story. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London, having been granted asylum. Marianne Ny is the Swedish prosecutor who's been holding up the show since September 2010 - almost seven years ago.
The United Nations condemned her last year for her treatment of Assange, declaring that she'd 'arbitrarily detained' him. In case you don't know, arbitrary detention is a very bad thing. Marianne Ny's reaction to the UN ruling was to ignore it. And the Swedish government backed her up.
And so we wait. Julian finally got Marianne to send someone to London to question him - something she's been resourceful in avoiding all these years.
The wheels of justice, although grinding slowly, finally forced her hand in November of last year. Julian gave a 19-page statement, something he'd been denied all these years, and that statement's conclusion said that to all other questions - and they asked questions over a two-day period - his answer was going to be 'please refer to my statement here'.
That was three months ago. It's been claimed by Marianne Ny's office that there are several hundred pages of the interview protocol to be translated into svenska. No one knows where those hundreds of pages come from, given the close of the Assange statement in November. Marianne Ny acknowledged receipt of the documents in early January this year. And still we wait.
There's of course lots of speculation about what the waiting's for. Translation of Assange's nineteen-page statement should take but a single day. Perhaps Marianne and her superiors were waiting for the outcome of the Ecuador elections in February; perhaps they're now waiting for the outcome of the followup elections in April. No one seems to know; those that do know are not telling. But as Flashback might say, it's 'skumt'.
But this is now; what about 'then'? Does anyone know anything about how this glorious mess started in the first place? There are several aspects of this case that are still not clear, and although this site's covered the case more than anyone (over 1,000 articles and at a sister site) there are still some things that even today, almost seven years on, just get curiouser and curiourser.
So let's start back on Wednesday 11 August 2010.
Julian Assange is on the run. He's been living off and on at the Frontline Club in London. SBS of Australia follow him around for a special report. Gavin MacFadyen of the Centre for Investigative Journalism brings in two of his apprentices, Sarah Harrison and Jo Farrell. It's during this time that WikiLeaks release the Afghan War Diaries. Julian and Sarah go off of an evening to CNN in London for a live interview with Larry King. The London papers are full of the story the following day. And Julian declares that, for at least 48 hours, he's 'untouchable'.
Bradley Manning seeks out the hacker Adrian Lamo and reveals that he's been submitting documents to WikiLeaks. Lamo, most likely turned into an informer by the FBI, contacts his new friends in the Hoover agency, and the FBI accompany UK agents to the home of Manning's mother in Wales. Julian decides he's got to get out of the country for a while. Overriding voices of caution, he plans a trip to Stockholm.
Assange's contact in Sweden is one Peter Weiderud, head of an obscure religious adjunct of the Social Democrats. Weiderud puts one of his subordinates in charge of arranging a talk in the Swedish capital. That subordinate's name is Anna Ardin.
One of the uncomfortable aspects of this arrangement is the financing. It's not known what fee Assange was to get. It's likely Ardin's organisation agreed to cover Assange's travel and expenses. But hotels in Stockholm are notoriously expensive. Ardin comes upon the idea of letting Assange stay in her tiny (25m2) flat, and she herself getting out of town and to her home island Gotland for the week.
The basic plan seems to have been to let Assange stay at Ardin's address from arrival until Saturday 14 August. Assange also made plans to meet with Rick Falkvinge of Sweden's Pirate Party and to enter into a colocation agreement whereby the Pirate Party would share rack space with the legendary ISP Bahnhof. Assange was to give his talk on Saturday 14 August, and thereafter to be whisked away by Falkvinge, presumably to his flat in Sollentuna north of Stockholm.
That was the basic plan.
Ardin decided however to leave town early and let someone else greet Assange on his arrival. That someone else was Donald Boström, a freelance photographer. Boström met Assange on Wednesday 11 August 2010, and took him off to a new Lebanese restaurant in town. Presumably Boström gave Assange the keys to Ardin's flat at that time, but it's thought that Assange didn't get to Ardin's address until the day after.
It's important to put these details in context. On arrival in Sweden in August 2010, Assange was nothing less than a mega rock star. All the major news organisations requested (and received, save Expressen) exclusive online chat sessions for their readers. Assange was just about the biggest hero in the world.
Anna Ardin decided to cut short her visit to Gotland and ambush Assange in her flat on Friday afternoon. After dealing with a perplexed Assange and taking him out to dinner, she invited him into her bed where they engaged in what seems to have been 'clumsy sex'. The following day she decides to hold a party, in Assange's honour, in the back courtyard to her building, inviting what many others seem to have thought were a strange group indeed. Rick Falkvinge is also at that party, and presumably he's told at that time that Assange would not be traveling to Sollentuna but would remain with Ardin. Ardin also said the same thing to others at the party, including Johannes Wahlström, who is on record for thinking Ardin's 25m2 was 'just too tiny' for the two. Ardin made several hints at the party that she and Assange were now an 'item' and, according to her friend Kajsa, even offered Kajsa a night with Assange, joking that he was 'the worst fuck ever'.
Sunday 15 August was the photo-shoot at the Glenfiddich Warehouse restaurant in the old town for the signing by Assange and Falkvinge of the WikiLeaks / Pirate Party colocation agreement. Ardin was on hand for the event, photographed with Assange and Falkvinge by the Pirate Party's network administrator, and listed on the formal press release as the WikiLeaks press representative for Sweden.
(For further context, here's another tidbit: the government of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had gone into Panic Mode after the Afghan War Diaries, and directly asked the governments of Europe to arrest Julian Assange, by any means necessary. Sweden already had troops in Afghanistan.)
Sofia Wilén came out of nowhere. (She went right back to nowhere again, but that's another story. Perhaps...)
Sofia claims she'd not known about Assange for very long, had begun reading up on him, and when the announcement went out that he'd be coming to Stockholm, contacted Weiderud's office to get a ticket. (Unfortunately, she seems to have waited until two days after the tickets were all gone, so it's still a mystery how she got in.)
Sofia sat in the front row at the far right, wearing a pink cashmere jumper that at least Johannes Wahlström reacted to. She took along her single-lens reflex camera, letting it bat its eye at Assange throughout the talk.
Sofia, Assange, and Wahlström went to the Haymarket together after lunch. Wahlström asked if Assange wanted to follow along and help him move furniture; Sofia wondered if Assange would rather go see a movie. Poor Julian, tough decision!
Julian and Sofia made out in the cinema. Then Julian had to get back down south in town for his own party. Julian and Sofia planned on connecting again.
Sofia contacted Julian again on Monday 16 August. Julian was in a meeting in Johannes' flat at Zinkensdamm. Sofia decided to catch the subway to Zinkensdamm and wait for Julian. Julian finally came out, and he and Sofia made their way to her flat in the nearby town of Enköping. Julian had an appointment with Aftonbladet the following day, and Sofia took him on her bike to the train station. Again they planned to keep in touch.
This is now Tuesday 17 August. Sometime between this day and Thursday 19 August, Sofia contacts Anna Ardin. They've not known each other previously. It's now Ardin learns that Assange has been having sex with Sofia too. Something breaks, and on the afternoon of Friday 20 August, they meet in Stockholm and go to the police station atop the city's central train station.
Even these details are well known.
It takes several hours for things to get underway. Ardin's friend, the police constable Irmeli Krans, arrives at the station and begins taking down Sofia's story. Sofia sends out SMS messages to friends saying she's being railroaded by the police who seem intent on getting their hands on Assange (for other things, presumably). Ardin has yet another party to attend - with her friend Kajsa - so she departs the police station without leaving a statement. Word comes down to Sofia and Irmeli that the prosecutor's issued an arrest warrant for Assange, and that the police are out hunting him down. Sofia gets so upset that she can't continue the interview with Irmeli anymore, and doesn't even sign her statement - which is not only customary but a legal necessity.
Freelance photographer Stefan Söderström and Expressen reporter Niklas Svensson are out in Harpsund at this time, on assignment by Expressen to cover the prime minister's annual crayfish party. Stefan gets an SMS on his phone, asking him to please get into Expressen headquarters stat, as they've got word that the police are about to arrest Julian Assange, and they want pictures. Svensson learns of this news from Söderström. It's not known how Söderström gets into town, but Svensson evidently broke all laws of traffic and physics to get back ASAP so he can 'muscle' in on the scoop. (Svensson was to later brag that the story was his, but was forced to recant in a national magazine.)
The police didn't find Assange that night, but by morning, a Google search for 'Assange+rape' yielded five million results. Svensson pushed in on colleague Diamant Salihu, and the two of them, together with right-winger Emanuel Karlsten, went gangbusters on Twitter, trying to give the story legs. They published at 05:00 local time, and by noon, as they were still at it, they'd managed to get other sites to pick up the story.
Svensson and his boss Thomas Mattsson were to later explain why they broke the rules in publishing Assange's name, as doing so was against acceptable behaviour. At first they said it was because everyone already knew who it was (?) but later admitted the real reason was that it would be the biggest scoop in their history.
Rick Falkvinge was awakened early with the news, and rushed out a message to all his party members. 'We have a colocation agreement with WikiLeaks, but as for Assange, we don't know the man', the message said.
Even the Swedish government had gone into Panic Mode. Prosecutor-General Anders Perklev was contacted by superiors. They asked him to clean up the mess. Perklev pulled his best Stockholm prosecutor out of the hat: Eva Finné. Eva was in her summer cottage for the weekend, and a messenger went out to her with the few documents in the case file (including Sofia's unfinished testimony). Eva spends the rest of her day reviewing the case file.
Assange has now learned of the story, and asks about town what he should do. Get a lawyer, people say, recommending Leif Silbersky, the former understudy of Henning Sjöström, Sweden's otherwise most famous attorney. Plans are evidently underway for Silbersky and Assange to meet with the police as soon as they're given instructions.
Anna Ardin's been out partying with her friend Kajsa. It's not known at what time she returns home, but her phone rings about noon. It's the police, and they want her to now make a statement as well. Ardin says she and Assange had sex the week before, something funny seemed to happen to the condom, etc.
The police ask Ardin if she perchance still has that used condom lying around (a week later). Ardin tells the police she'll go look. Somehow she gets back to them, informing them that she indeed has the condom.
This is one of the tricky parts. Ardin's testimony describes how the condom was torn in some way. Ardin also tells the police, for some unfathomable reason, that she still has the condom.
Try to follow along here: police inspector Mats Gehlin plans to send the condom (and a piece of condom used by Assange and Sofia) to the state crime lab. What he thinks he's going to learn isn't known, as Assange admitted to sex with both women, but one thing Gehlin did not request was a DNA test. But he got one anyway.
Saturday 21 August, Late Afternoon
The whole world is buzzing right now with the story. The police are on their way to Ardin's address to pick up her condom. They're evidently going out to Enköping too to get Sofia's condom.
But it's about now the news hits again. Stockholm prosecutor Eva Finné is going to rescind the arrest warrant for Julian Assange. She's read Sofia's story, and deems Sofia to have been honest, but unfortunately, what Sofia's described is not a crime.
This effectively leaves Anna Ardin dangling. Whether it was Ardin who got Sofia to go to the police, or the other way around, Ardin's role was still to be there as 'support' - to be there to give credence to Sofia's story.
[Yet Sofia's SMS message says she was railroaded. Yes, this is another paradox. Ed.]
Ardin would have known, as her university's police liaison, how things work with cases of rape and molestation. She would have known that a rape case wouldn't have her imprimatur, as rape is a 'crime against the state', and it's the state filing the complaint, not her (or Sofia). She would have understood as well that the police have a duty to file a complaint (on behalf of the state) if they suspect there's been a crime committed against the state. So one doesn't have to enter a police station and start screaming 'rape' - one need only enter very naïvely to ask questions about STDs... And then the police will take it from there.
Initially, the police filed two reports on rape - both Sofia's and Ardin's. But the filing for Ardin was changed to molestation sometime that weekend. Ardin's testimony on the phone to the police would be in her name, not in the name of the state. And Ardin was supposed to be only a background figure anyway. But now the state media news said Sofia's case had been closed, and that left Anna Ardin dangling. All alone.
Claes Borgström is the only lawyer in Sweden with a permanently sullied reputation. He'd come to national prominence for the trial of one Christer Pettersson, who was accused of assassinating Olof Palme, when he was appointed by state radio to be their live legal commentator. Years later, when one Mona Sahlin got caught with her fingers in the cabinet till, she chose 'Clabbe' to represent her.
This is a matter worth looking closer into. Sahlin got caught with 'the goods': the prosecutors had her bank statements, proving she'd embezzled state funds to pay for household matters, and infamously for bars of her favourite Toblerone Swiss chocolate. What's important here: the prosecutors had the evidence. All of it. Black on white.
Enter the redoubtable Borgström, with all his connections in the power corridors. Borgström gets the prosecutors to close the case against Sahlin on the official grounds that there's a 'lack of evidence'. When the prosecutors already have all the evidence they could ever wish for.
That's some feat.
Sahlin was of course overjoyed. She'd been slated as the next PM, and would now have to get out of the limelight for a few years (the old 'short memory' principle) but at least her career and even her future were more or less intact.
[This would later change, as Sahlin was again caught with her 'hands in the till', but that's another story. Ed.]
Sahlin was so exuberant that she created a brand new cabinet post for 'Clabbe': Minister for Gender Equality. Borgström never took the position seriously, according to what he told his client Sture Bergwall, saying only that it was a good paycheque, that he could delegate everything to subordinates, freeing him to give well-paid speeches around the country - and of course to 'defend' Sture Bergwall.
Sture Bergwall, aka 'Thomas Quick', is Sweden's first (and only) serial killer. Except he wasn't. The case has now been entirely exhumed, all allegations against Bergwall are gone, all previous convictions having been overturned due to a complete lack of evidence, and so forth. Bergwall had been convicted of eight murders in six trials. The first prosecutor to overturn a verdict was none other than Eva Finné.
The Bergwall/Quick scandal was unraveling in the months preceding Assange's August visit to Stockholm. Several books had been written about the case, exposing the whole ugly mess. There was the psychiatrist, who thought she was on the cusp of a great discovery (except it had been debunked years earlier, and she didn't know); there was the police investigator, who was truly inexperienced and unprofessional in such matters; there was the prosecutor, who wanted to make a name for himself and get a cushy promotion down south in the capital (which he did get); and last but certainly not least, there was the defence attorney.
Borgström wasn't Bergwall/Quick's first attorney. His earlier attorney was a former prosecutor who'd changed sides. And who resigned his position as Bergwall/Quick's attorney in protest at not being allowed to do his job (and defend his client).
The client himself - Sture Bergwall aka 'Thomas Quick' - wanted to be convicted. He was incarcerated at a Happy Acres and he didn't want to leave. He felt safer there: it kept him out of trouble, and kept him away from amphetamines, which he particularly feared.
[Bergwall has since come out with his own book on the scandal. Ed.]
So Bergwall would feed the shrink, who'd swallow everything he told her, she'd go bat shit and run to the police, the prosecutor got involved, things were going to court with no evidence whatsoever (welcome to Sweden) and the first defence attorney quit in protest. So who does Bergwall want now? Any suggestions? Bergwall knows one name.
Claes Borgström knows the score. There's a lot of gold in them thar hills. You only gotta keep yer mouth shut. 'Clabbe' knows that game well - he ended up pulling in close to $1 million doing nothing - specifically doing nothing.
But by the spring of 2010, it's all unraveling, and people realise that the ultimate responsibility falls on the shoulders of the defence attorney Claes Borgström. Claes Borgström made a lot of money, but now his name is dirt.
In a daring move, Borgström goes to Bonnier broadsheet DN.se with an op-ed, where he asks the Swedish Bar Association to investigate his behaviour in the Quick scandal. But as attorney Thomas Olsson pointed out, it was all a bluff: Borgström knew that the Bar Association had no way to conduct such an investigation.
Borgström was hoping for a new cabinet post after the September 2010 elections, when his Social Democrats were predicted to return to power. He had to have a clean name.
Making Sense of Julian Assange
Now back to Ardin and Sofia. It's not known which of them contacted Borgström, but it's likely it was Ardin, as they belonged to the same party, and Sofia wasn't politically active. Borgström's invoices show that he consulted with the two girls on Monday 23 August 2010, and Borgström is on the record as being the one who suggested they take the case to his friend Marianne Ny, even though it had already been closed. 'I suggested it', Borgström told reporters. 'They didn't even know such a thing was possible.'
So the questions are clear, if one is to make sense of Julian Assange. They're numerous too. Here are but a few.
If Sofia was angry she'd been railroaded by the police, didn't want to file a complaint against Assange, understood, as her SMS messages said, that they were out to get him, and as her part of the case had already been closed by Eva Finné, why then did she agree to meet with Claes Borgström?
Is Borgström's move to reopen the case against Assange merely a smokescreen to protect his party comrade Anna Ardin?
Why is Sofia still incommunicado? Why has her entire web presence been scrubbed, at a level of effectivity previously thought to be impossible?
Why is Sofia so nervous about her own visit with the police being published online, in both Swedish and (at this site) in English?
Why does Sofia still maintain a secret Twitter account?
Why does Sofia retain a lawyer to this day?
To those who haven't read the case docs: do it. To those who have: do we really think this seven-year siege is not something long ago co-opted for an ulterior purpose?
So now we sit and wait. And we'll see what the Swedes come up with next.