Robert HARNEIS -DO- (FRANCE)- Swedish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange, stemming from 2010. Assange, who has always denied the allegations, took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden on the charges. He claimed the charges were a pretext to hold him in Sweden from whence he would be extradited to the USA.
British authorities dragged him out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and he has since been jailed in London’s Belmarsh prison on charges related to skipping of bail in 2012, when he first entered the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. The sexual allegations were always dubious and have predictably now been dropped leaving only the extradition proceedings to the USA.
He faces up to 175 years in prison on hacking charges and 17 counts of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an Australian citizen. A full extradition hearing will take place in February.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, says his initial position of skepticism toward Assange’s case changed as he began to look more deeply at the evidence and charges against him. “As I scratched the surface a little bit, immediately, things did not add up with the images I had in my mind of this man,” Melzer said in a recent talk at Columbia University. “The deeper I got into this, the more fabrication I saw.”
Few believe that if he is extradited to the USA, he will get a fair trial. Hilary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State is alleged to have asked her staff ‘can’t we just drone this guy?’ adding that he was after all a relatively soft target walking around thumbing his nose at the US.
Assange’s ‘crime’ is to have done his journalistic duty too well and to have revealed the questionable and illegal acts of various governments not just the USA. Bearing in mind that the UK government is in mid Brexit crisis and seeking a trade deal with the USA he cannot expect much sympathy there either. The British judge responsible for his case,Lady Emma Arbuthnot, has recently been accused of having close relations with the security services such as to render her impartiality problematic.