Sweden is noted for leggy blondes, expensive alcohol and Abba. It is also know as probably the most painfully politically correct country imaginable. It has the type of legal system which bends over backwards to protect the rights of the accused. When Daily Mail readers wake up in a cold sweat at three in the morning you will generally find that they have been dreaming of Sweden.
Ecuador is almost the polar opposite. It is the kind of place where journalists and trade unionists are regularly imprisoned. According to Human Rights Watch “Corruption, inefficiency and political influence have plagued the Ecuadorean judiciary for many years.” The laws of Ecuador restrict freedom of expression and are often used against the critics of president Correa. Just last year Emilio Palacio, a journalist for the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, was sentenced to three years imprisonment for criminal defamation of the Correa government. Those involved in protests may be prosecuted on inflated charges of ‘terrorism.’ Meanwhile the police can act with impunity and “perpetrators of murders often attributed to a ‘settling of accounts’ between criminal gangs are rarely prosecuted and convicted.” The Ecuadorean government has as much understanding of human rights as a kipper has of nuclear physics.
Meanwhile, as well as being absurdly willing to tag along with the USA whenever they mount a war the UK has an extradition treaty with the USA which many consider to be weighed in favour of American requests. The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee believes it is “easier to extradite a British citizen to the USA than vice versa”. Under the 2003 treaty British judges don’t fully test American allegations because the USA claims that their own courts, with all their judicial safeguards, have examined the evidence before any extradition application is made. This is an unparalleled arrangement.
Which brings us to Julian Assange. An arrest warrant has been issued in Sweden for Assange in connection with charges of sexual assault and rape. Assange had fled Sweden when it became apparent he was about to be arrested on the charges. When Sweden instigated an European Arrest Warrant for Assange British police implemented it, as they were obliged to do. Assange fought extradition to Sweden in every relevant court in the land, as he was entitled to do. When finally the Supreme Court found against him he again fled arrest, this time he jumped bail and found shelter in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Ecuador has now granted Assange political asylum.
When someone who sees himself as the centre of the world is also a conspiracy theorist a calm explanation of the facts is not to be expected. Assange is convinced that the USA is out to get him and once in Sweden they shall try to extradite him in connection with the secret material Assange published as founder and head of Wikileaks. There is no indication that the USA wishes to extradite Assange. If they did so they would already have made an extradition request to the UK where they stand a better chance than they would in Swedish courts.
Meanwhile a motley crew of media luvies, rich celebrities, professional protesters and people with too much money and time on their hands express support for Assange. Normally these are the types who would be protesting at Ecuador’s repressive policies and proclaim Sweden’s social democracy as a model for countries everywhere. These are people who would go into paroxysms of rage and scream “sexist pig” at the utterance of an inappropriate joke. Two accusations of rape would normally make them froth at the mouth. Why such support for Assange?
Assange is a hero because he is seen as sticking it to the USA. It is not only Iran who sees the USA as the Great Satan. Assange may come across as a deeply troubled, irresponsible and rather creepy man whose behaviour indicates that something untoward may well have happened in Sweden. This doesn’t matter, rule of law, female solidarity and plain common sense can all be suspended, Assange has embarrassed the USA and is therefore a hero to be defended no matter what.
Assange has a long record of quarrelling with everybody with whom he works, from the Wikileaks employees who accuse him of repressive management practices to the journalists of the Guardian who were initially eager to support him until his cavalier attitude to the lives of Afghans who had informed on the Taliban shocked even them. It now appears that he has sentenced himself to indefinite imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy. They deserve each other.