International,  UK Politics

Assange: the balcony defence

Much sense from the Guardian leader this morning following Julian Assange’s address to the assembled supporters and reporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge where he remains holed up in an effort to avoid facing rape allegations in Sweden.

It makes the point that Assange failed to mention the case, or the two women involved, and instead sang the song his supporters hear about freedom of speech, cause dropping Pussy Riot in there, whilst glossing over the fact that his dodging bail, failing to cooperate with the Swedish authorities, and hiding away on the unsubstantiated premise that he faces extradition to the US if he goes to Sweden has nothing to do with that.

The truth seems much more commonplace: Assange doesn’t want to answer questions.

“This champion of radical transparency hasn’t helped Swedish prosecutors with their inquiries. There was his remark about people being jailed for exercising freedom of speech, “There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response”, and yet taking shelter in a country that, according to Reporters Without Borders, shut down six radio stations and two TV stations in just one fortnight this June.

“And ultimately there is the repeated suggestion from Mr Assange’s supporters that if he goes to Sweden he will face extradition to the US to be prosecuted for treason. Yet there is no serious evidence that Washington plans to start such proceedings; and if it ever did, the political and public opposition in Sweden as well as Britain and across the world would be massive. But that is precisely the point: the valuable service performed by Mr Assange at WikiLeaks is a different issue from the serious accusations facing him in Sweden. Conflating the two may provide a rhetorical rush, as it did in Knightsbridge on Sunday; but over the longer term it badly damages the reputation of WikiLeaks and does Mr Assange’s case no practical good,” says the Guardian.

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