The Great Wikileaks Clusterfuck

Visitors to Liberal Conspiracy over the last few days cannot help but have noticed a bit of a three-way ruck going on between John Band, Sunny and Cath Elliott over an article John posted on the maybe/maybe not/who the hell knows for sure rape allegations against Julian Assange.

Speaking for myself, I’m not interested in getting into the middle of the arguments over alleged mysogyny, etc.

What does interest me, however, is why this whole situation regarding Assange appears to have become a monumental clusterfuck in which no one really seems to be quite sure exactly what the fuck is going on or even, necessarily, what the actual basis of the allegations against him might be.

Its taken a couple of days of digging around, but I think I might just have the answer.

What follows is a timeline of the events which allegedly took place during, and shortly after, Assange’s visit to Sweden in August this year. The information in it was, according to my own source, published by a Swedish tabloid – Aftonbladet – in a special supplement to its print edition and did not appear on the newspaper’s website. At the time, the newspaper claimed to have gained access to police files relating to the complaints against Assange and the initial stages of the investigation.

As to reliability of this information, it appears to be an accurate account of the content of the Aftonbladet supplement, and it also appears to have also been the basis of a report in the Mail on Sunday on 29th August, which repeats many much of its ‘factual’ content but with added Mills and Boon style tittilation. The Mail claimed that it too had gained access to the same police files as Aftonbladet – whether this is true, or whether the Mail just lifted Aftonbladet’s copy is open to question. What matters is that the Mail’s story helps to confirm the contents of Aftonbladet supplement are cited in the timeline as they were published.

Quite how accurate this information will turn out to be is anyone’s guess. Aftonbladet is, after all, a tabloid and, like our own tabloids, has a long track record of publishing hearsay and calling it fact, so I wouldn’t claim that theirs is an authoritative account. On that cautionary in mind, it is nevertheless well worth publishing the timeline as, at the very least, it does help to clarify why this whole situation has become shrouded in confusion and why the complaints against Assange are attracting a fair degree of scepticism.

* * * * * * * * *

Note: Italicised content is claimed to be direct quotations from the police file obtained by Aftonbladet.

2010-08-11 (Wednesday). Julian Assange arrives in Stockholm. He is invited by Complainant A of the Brotherhood Movement, an adjunct of the Social Democrat Party. Complainant A is to be out of town for a few days and lets Assange stay at her flat in Stockholm. Assange uses much of his time to meet with journalists and organisations. He has dinner with friends and a US journalist who wants to talk about his new book on the Bush clan.

Complainant B contacts the Brotherhood Movement on or shortly after 11 August to get a ticket to the Assange event. Admission is ‘prio press’ as Complainant A posts on Twitter. Complainant B is professedly a photographer and gets a ticket. She lives outside Stockholm but claims to be a national government employee.

2010-08-13 (Friday). Complainant A was to return to Stockholm first on Saturday 14 August but gets back early, already on Friday afternoon.

‘He was there when I came home’, Complainant A tells the police. ‘We talked a bit and agreed he could continue to stay there.’

Complainant A and Assange go to a local eatery for dinner, then return to the flat and have sex. They use a condom but the condom is found to be broken afterwards.

2010-08-14 (Saturday). Complainant B attends the event arranged by Complainant A, sits in the front row with her camera and takes pictures of Assange, hangs about afterwards, introduces herself to Assange, gets an invite to a lunch with the entourage at a ‘bistro’ a few blocks away, she and Assange see a short movie in a local cinema afterwards, then part.

Assange attends a crayfish party in Complainant A’s courtyard where two members of Sweden’s Pirate Party (likely Falkvinge and Troberg) and are also present.

2010-08-15 (Sunday). Assange, Falkvinge, and Troberg meet in the old town for a photo shoot concerning Sweden’s Pirate Party offering server support to WikiLeaks.

Complainant B rings Assange but his telephone is turned off. She starts telling her work colleagues about her meet with Assange.

‘They told me he must feel like I dumped him, so the ball’s in my court if I want see him again’, Complainant B tells the police.

2010-08-16 (Monday). Complainant B rings Assange again and this time he picks up. He tells her he’s going to a meeting in the evening but should be able to connect with her about 20:30. Complainant B wanders about in the city, eats some sushi, rings Assange back at 21:00 when he hasn’t yet turned up. Assange picks up.

‘He said he was in Hornsgatan and the meeting had just ended. He asked me to come and meet him, which I did.’

Complainant B and Assange walk to the old town, sit down at Munkbron, talk a while, and then take the train to her home. Complainant B pays for Assange’s ticket.

Complainant B and Assange have sex that evening with a condom. They have sex again in the following morning but without a condom. After sex in the morning, Complainant B goes out and buys, then cooks breakfast – oatmeal and juice. They joke about her possibly being pregnant.

‘I was being sarcastic to defuse the situation.’

Complainant B and Assange ride together on her bike to the train station. Assange returns to Stockholm alone. Complainant B asks Assange if he’ll ring her. He says he will.

Assange is to meet Agneta Lindblom Hulthén of the Swedish journalists association at 12:00 noon but doesn’t turn up until 16:00. One of his colleagues, who’d been at the meeting the previous evening and had seen Complainant B arrive at Hornsgatan, starts looking for him. He tries to reach Complainant B as he suspected they’d spent the night together. He also rings Assange but he doesn’t answer.

2010-08-18 (Wednesday). Complainant B calls Complainant A and tells her she’s had unprotected sex with Assange. She says she’s upset he didn’t use a condom and is afraid she might have contracted an STD or become pregnant. Complainant A admits she too had had sex with Assange. Complainant A rings an acquaintance of Assange’s after the conversation with Complainant B to convey the message to Assange that she wants him to move his things out of her flat.

2010-08-19 (Thursday). Complainant A sends an SMS message to the same acquaintance of Assange, saying he still hadn’t moved his things out.

2010-08-20 (Friday). Assange moves his things out of Complainant A’s flat. He claims it’s that Friday was the first time he’d heard of her request.

Complainant B and Complainant A arrive at the Klara police station at 14:00. Complainant B wants to file charges of rape; Complainant A tags along to be of help.

They talk to a female police officer – she decides that they are both victims of a sex crime and decides to interrogate them separately.

Of Complainant B the female police officer writes the following in the report.

‘She said she’d been raped in her home on the morning of Tuesday 17 August by a man who had sex with her against her wishes.’

The female police officer ends her report with the following.

‘Everyone I spoke to was in earnest agreement that this was a case of rape.’

Complainant A, who only came along to help Complainant B, tells the policewoman she also had sex with Complainant A. She tells the policewoman the condom broke during sex and accuses Assange of deliberately breaking it. The police conduct their interrogation of Complainant A the following day on the phone.

The police send out a ‘posse’ to Stureplan to visit upscale nightclubs in search of Assange. He is not to be found.

(Assange later tells friends about the broken condom but dismisses the idea it broke deliberately. He also insists he in no way raped the other woman either – it was consensual unprotected sex.)

(Niklas Svensson of Expressen gets wind of the story, races back to Stockholm from Harpsund, he or someone else in his office rings up prosecutor on duty Maria Kjellstrand who corroborates the details, the charges, and the identities involved.)

2010-08-21 (Saturday). Svensson’s story hits Expressen online at 05:00. A few hours later the other Swedish news sites have the story and soon it’s all over the globe.

The police are tipped off that Assange is staying at a hotel in Stockholm but he’s already checked out by the time they arrive.

Chief prosecutor Eva Finné decides to take over the case and has the files sent to her summer cottage by messenger. She reviews the documents and immediately rescinds the arrest warrant. She adds the following to her decision.

‘If the suspect turns up then tell him he’s suspected of molestation X 2.’

2010-08-22 (Sunday). Karin Rosanger (Swedish Prosecution Authority] is interviewed by Al Jazeera and [according to the site that compiled this timeline] “somehow made a mockery of herself and the country to a stupefied reporter and studio crew”.

This appears to be the Al Jazeera report in question, please make your own mind up as to whether that last comment is justified – U.

Eva Finné is rumoured to be highly critical of the initial arrest warrant.

Complainant B and Complainant A contact Claes Borgström in the evening and he agrees to take the case.

2010-08-23 (Monday). Assange retains Leif Silbersky as counsel and Silbersky immediately poses a rather obvious question.

‘Why did the prosecutor corroborate all that confidential information for the media?’

The question is considered obvious because such behaviour is neither normal, acceptable, nor prudent – particularly when the arrest is ‘in absentia’. Announcing such an arrest only gives the suspect a chance to flee. [Timeline compiler’s opinion, not mine – U.]

The prosecutor’s office refuse to this day to reply to Silbersky.

2010-08-25 (Wednesday). A Google search for ‘Assange rape’ yields 1.2 million hits.

Finné clarifies that she doesn’t mean she doesn’t believe the women’s stories, only that there is nothing criminal in them. Borgström, based on the same evidence, insists there is something criminal and that it was outright rape in both cases, and demands the case be reviewed by a prosecutor of yet higher rank.

Borgström is given an advance copy of the Aftonbladet article and replies with the following.

‘I want to stress that there are significant details missing in this report, details I base my accusations of rape on, but I am prevented from revealing what these details are.’

Aftonbladet’s reporters suggest to Borgström that it’s in his clients’ best interests to reveal the ‘significant details’. Borgström replies with the following.

‘It would hurt the investigation to make the information public at this stage. It’s my opinion [Finné] was in error. I believe Assange will be accused of sex crimes.’

Aftonbladet’s reporters tell Borgström they wonder how this can be if Complainant A insists she’s not been raped. Borgström replies with the following.

‘[Complainant A]‘s not a jurist.’

2010-08-30 (Monday). Assange meets with the police at 17:45. His solicitor Leif Silbersky is simultaneously involved in the ‘helicopter robbery’ case and can’t make it earlier. Assange is told he is suspected of deliberately breaking a condom and denies this is so. He adds that he’ll be staying in Sweden to fight the accusations and has no intention of fleeing the country.

Assange also demands guarantees details of the case will not again be leaked to the media – particularly Expressen.

2010-08-31 (Tuesday). Details of the interview the police guaranteed would not be leaked turn up in Expressen anyway.

* * * * * * * * * *

Regardless of how you view the allegations against Assange, it seems perfectly clear that the information published by Aftonbladet has created most of the confusion surrounding this case.

Taken at face value, the first of two incidents is clearly presented by Aftonbladet as a post-coital dispute over a broken condom and, contrary to later claims, in which it has been suggested that both Assange and Complainant A became aware of breakage part way through having sex, the report appears to indicate that the condom failure was only discovered after the couple had finsished having sex.

Can that reasonably be considered to be rape?

Under English rape law, or similar, where the definition of rape is premised on the question of consent, then it would, in theory, be possible to prefer a rape charge against Assange on the basis that consent was premised on the use of a condom and had, therefore, been obtained by deception, but this also presupposes that you accept the allegation that Assange deliberately damaged the condom before having sex.

To confuse matters further, Complainant A is on record as having told Aftonbladet, in a later interview, that she had never intended Assange to be charged with rape. The interview quotes her as having said:

“It is quite wrong that we were afraid of him. He is not violent, and I do not feel threatened by him,”

“The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man who had attitude problems with women.”

As you’ll have seen, towards the end of timeline, Complainant A’s claim that she hadn’t been raped was put to her lawyer by Aftonbladet, to which the lawyer responded by stating that:

“Complainant A is not a jurist”

I think even the most hardened radical feminist would find the suggestion that Swedish women are only capable of deciding for themselves whether or not they’ve been raped if they have several years of legal training and practice behind them more than a little bit  bizarre and rather patronising.

Personally, I think its a hell of reach to argue that Complainant A has been raped when she’s adamant that she hasn’t.

Complainant B’s situation seems a little more straightforward inasmuch it does appear that she did go to the police and complain that she had been raped. Beyond that, the information given is rather too vague to take any kind of view of what might have actually happened and the situation is further confused by Eva Finné’s decision to rescind the original arrest warrant and her subsequent assertion that this didn’t mean that she didn’t believe the women’s stories, only that she saw nothing criminal in their accounts.

On the face of it, what we have here can be reasonably interpreted as a classic ‘he said, she said’ consent-based rape allegation which, rather unfortunately from the Complainant’s point of view, took place in a jurisdiction that does not, currently, define rape in terms of consent, only in terms of the use of violence and/or threats of imminant harm.

The only definite conclusion I can come to here is that Swedish law is, like the rape laws of other Nordic countries, a complete ass – a view that happily coincides with that of Amnesty International:

In Nordic countries, for example, the use of violence or threats of violence determine the seriousness of rape rather than the violation of a woman’s sexual autonomy. The report Case Closed: Rape and Human Rights in the Nordic Countries, documents one case in Finland where a man forced a woman to have sexual intercourse in the disabled toilet of a car park by banging her head against the wall and twisting her arm behind her back. In the prosecutor’s opinion, this was not rape as the violence used was of slight degree. The man was convicted of coercion into sexual intercourse and sentenced to a conditional (suspended) seven-month prison term.

Beyond that, this whole situation could not have been guaranteed to provoke the kind of arguments that leave just about everyone looking a little bit daft and unreasonable had it been deliberately devised as a troll.

This whole thing is a clusterfuck of epic proportions and I pity the poor sod who has to try and sort this whole sorry mess out.