For slightly under a year, the war on Julian Assange, an Austrian commentator and publisher on the wanted list in the US and Sweden, seems to steadily top the British law-enforcement agenda. While much ado surrounds the cross-border manhunt, the formal charges which prompted it are not on the public radar. Pressed in Sweden, those sound bizarre even against the country's reputation for mixing human rights with paranoia. The case against Assange, with the arrest warrant issued on August 20, 2010, involves allegations of rape and sexual assault described as follows:
• Assange is charged with having unprotected intercourse with a Swedish woman – named in court as Miss A to keep her identity under wraps – contrary to her request that he use a condom.
• Miss W, another woman whose identity is not released, accused Assange of having evidently consensual but unprotected sex with her when she was asleep.
The claims leave a somewhat laughable impression, considering that both ladies did not object to multiple instances of sex with Assange and willingly shared beds with him in their residences, but later on chose to lodge criminal complaints. Initially, the Swedish court soberly removed the rape charges but they resurfaced under some shadowy influence. At the point, Assange made a mistake of fleeing to Great Britain which hosts an ever-expanding community of political refugees from across the world. London, it must be noted, has long become mecca to characters whose credentials of political refugees are at best dubious – a motley crew of unseated sheiks, drug lords, human traffickers, and killers of all brands – the people Great Britain welcomes as all of the species are enemies of their respective homelands and, therefore, can be used as pawns in political games against them. For example, the list of Londoners insulated from justice in the countries of origin includes Russia's corrupt and formerly well-connected oligarch B. Berezovsky or Chechen leader and notorious butcher A. Zakayev. It must be due to his dislike for condoms or tendency towards sex replays with a woman who sleeps with him that Assange did not fit in and had to face the prospects of extradition, or else the conclusion must be that stakes in the game were too high for Great Britain to imitate respect for international law in the case.
At the moment, Assange is stuck in the embassy of Ecuador, the country which, at a critical point, granted him political asylum. The ground floor of the premises is unrelated to the diplomatic mission and the British police is already there, but the firm reaction of the Ecuadoran foreign ministry served to avert the storming of the rest. It is clear that the plan for a forced entry is put on hold rather than scrapped, with the inventive British authorities eying various options to justify the intrusion. In the meantime, Assange's supporters prepare a campaign of sending quantities of condoms to the British court, obviously in a hope that tighter birth control would eventually render this type of the judicial authority extinct.
By all means, the hunt for Assange is supposed to culminate in his being put on trial in the US over the revelations he has channeled. The record commands respect – since 2006, Assange dished out to the media – Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and The New York Times – around 100,000 documents containing sensitive informations pertinent to the war in Afghanistan, plus tens of thousands of documents shedding light on the war in Iraq. Some of the pieces, particularly videos, highlighted the killings of civilians and caused world-scale scandals to erupt. Assange says he still has a stockpile of 15,000 Pentagon documents to put on public display. Visiting Sweden in August, 2010, Assange penned an accord with the local Pirate Party to have it adopt WikiLeaks mirrors and otherwise assist the project internationally. Moreover, Assange announced in July, 2012 that WikiLeaks would publish 2.4 million documents related to the conflict now raging in Syria and giving a wider perspective on what is knocking the country off balance.
That should refocus the view on the real causes behind Assange's plight – his victims are not the mythical Miss A and Miss W, but the US and British policies, with their dirty secrets exposed thanks to Assange's efforts. He cannot stay at the Ecuadoran embassy indefinitely, and the US-British duo is dead-serious about getting Assange in custody. Pressure on Ecuador is mounting – British diplomacy chief W. Hague threatens that the Ecuadoran mission may be stripped of its diplomatic status in line with a law warranting the step if an embassy is used as a heaven for criminals. The statement drew a harsh response from Ecuador and fiery criticisms of the British establishment worldwide.
Assange is paying the price for his professional integrity and belief in the audiences' entitlement to the full truth. The revelations in which he was instrumental contained the truth and nothing else, earning him world acclaim and a series of journalist awards. He got the Amnesty International media award in 2008, ranked 58th in The Guardian's list of 100 top media influencers, and was suggested as the 2010 person of the year by The Times readership (The Times chose Mark Zuckerberg instead). Russia's Vedomosti business daily honored him as the year's individual in 2010, and in May, 2011 Assange received a medal from Australia's Sydney Peace Foundation, placing him “alongside the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela”.
Troubles simply had to catch up with the man who had lifted the lid on the US-British policies. The mission in which Miss A and Miss W are fleetingly appointed to central roles is to teach the world media – and all those who are convinced that the world of today still holds a place for decency and integrity – a lesson that would not be easily forgotten.
Assange's articulated doctrine being that a journalist relying on Internet as the platform has no obligations to any particular country, he had the absolute right to supply to the public every bit of information at his disposal. The US concept of what is and what is not legal is of course nowhere nearly as broad, and in the context condoms are of no help.