Julian Assange arrested on sex assault charges, vows to fight extradition

A prison van, believed to be carrying Julian Assange, leaves London's Westminster Magistrates' Court / AFP

THE PRIME Minister has been urged to support WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange following his arrest, while Visa has cut off payments to the whistleblowing website.


WikiLeaks 8 December 2010

Assange's supporters - including scholar Noam Chomsky, journalist John Pilger, author Christos Tsiolkas, and Greens leader Bob Brown - have urged the Prime Minister to support Assange after he was arrested in Britain on sex assault charges.

The case against Assange sparked from two one-night stands in Sweden which one of the women involved says "had been consensual from the start but had eventually turned into abuse".

The news comes as WikiLeaks released hundreds more US diplomatic cables that reveal a damning assessment of Kevin Rudd's performance when he was the country's leader. In these messages, the US ambassador labels Mr Rudd a bungling "control freak" who risked diplomatic relationships in attempts to big-note himself.

Visa has now suspended all payments to WikiLeaks pending an investigation of the organisation's business. This leaves WikiLeaks, which relies on online donations, without another source of payment after PayPal recently severed ties to the organisation.

Today the office of the Swedish prosecutor pursuing Assange came under cyber attack in the latest salvo by his online supporters, the "cyber hacktivist" group called "Anonymous". Attempts to connect to the aklagare.se website around 9am (AEDT) were unsuccessful.

The arrest

Assange has been been refused bail and remanded in custody following his arrest by British police on sex assault charges.

The 39-year-old, who voluntarily surrendered to police last night, faced an extradition hearing at London's Westminster Magistrates Court.

During his court appearance the Australian vowed to fight attempts to extradite him to Sweden, where he faces the sex offence allegations, while his lawyer confirmed Mr Assange would make a renewed bid for bail.

He was asked if he understood that he could consent to be extradited, to which he replied: "I understand that and I do not consent."

Judge Howard Riddle remanded him in custody and ordered him to return to court on December 14.

Rudd criticised

The court drama played out as new information emerged from the secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks on former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd was branded a mistake-prone control-freak and "a micro-manager obsessed with managing the media cycle rather than engaging in collaborative decision-making".

The cables showed how favourable US impressions of Mr Rudd, once described as "a safe pair of hands", were replaced by criticism of his micro-management and mishandling of diplomacy as he focused on media opportunities, AAP reported.

"Rudd undoubtedly believes that with his intellect, his six years as a diplomat in the 1980s and his five years as shadow foreign minister, he has the background and the ability to direct Australia's foreign policy," the US embassy observed in November last year.

Hiding out

Before last night, Mr Assange had not been seen publicly for over a month and was believed to have been hiding with friends in southeast London.

His arrest came after Scotland Yard contacted his lawyer Mark Stephens after receiving a fresh European Arrest Warrant from the Swedish authorities.

A previous warrant, issued last month, was invalid, as officials had failed to fill in all the charges on the form.

Detectives in Sweden had been searching for Mr Assange to question him in relation to claims made by two women - whom he met when he was visiting for lectures in August.

A Metropolitan Police statement said he was "accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010".

The women claim he sexually attacked them. Both said they had consensual sex with the notorious campaigner, but that it became nonconsensual when he refused to wear a condom.

Fight continues

Mr Stephens said Mr Assange was keen to face the authorities to begin clearing his name.

"It's about time we got to the end of the day and we got some truth, justice and rule of law," Mr Stephens said.

"Julian Assange has been the one in hot pursuit to vindicate himself to clear his good name.

"He has been trying to meet with her (the Swedish prosecutor) to find out what the allegations are he has to face and also the evidence against him, which he still hasn't seen."

Speaking to the media before the court appearance, Mr Stephens said Mr Assange was “fine". "He’s in good spirits.”

Arrest outrage

But after bail was denied, the WikiLeaks website immediately posted a message on its Twitter page. "Let down by the UK justice system's bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange," it read.

The website said the release of confidential US diplomatic cables would continue.

"Today's actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won't affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal," it said.

Outside court, UK-based Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger spoke in support of Mr Assange, describing the case against him as "outrageous".

"This shouldn't have happened today," he said.

"This is an innocent man. This is a man who has made some very serious enemies for the very best of reasons. Any journalist who feels anything about what we do should be supporting him 100 per cent."

Prior to Mr Assange's arrest, Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland said he was entitled to return to his home country and to receive consular help from Australian officials should he be arrested overseas.

Assange speaks out

In an article written by Mr Assange for today's edition of The Australian, the WikiLeaks boss quotes the chairman of News Corporation: "In 1958, a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: 'In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.'"

He wrote that WikiLeaks was "fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public".

"The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings."

The alleged sex crimes may be only the beginning of Mr Assange's criminal charges.

The US Government was also yesterday increasing their efforts to prosecute Mr Assange for criminal activity over WikiLeaks' release of the diplomatic cables.

The US Justice Department had "a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature" into Mr Assange, US Attorney General Eric Holder said.

US defence secretary Robert Gates welcomed Mr Assange's arrest, saying it "sounds like good news."

In reply to the US arrest threats, the Australian sent a chilling threat, saying if he was prosecuted or assassinated he would unlock a 'poison pill' - the entire archive of internal cables which have been downloaded in a secret document by more than "100,000 people".

Since last Monday WikiLeaks have released just 1000 of the 251,287 internal cables.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

What is chilling is the psychopathic lack of empathy of Julian Assange who very obviously has a serious personality problem and probably, a mental health problem that goes with genius IQ, if that is true.

If he has brains upstairs , he sure did not engage them prior to forcing willing participants to PROTECTED SEX into unprotected sex. Its RAPE, and the evidence is damming.

What makes it incredible, is that Assange is claiming to be a victim, despite fleeing Sweden two days before a hearing he agreed to attend and apparently, he does not deny the substance of the allegations, he simply thinks he is above the law and no wonder why.

He also released the names of informants knowing full well that to do so was a virtual death sentence.

He has a lot to answer for and hopefully, a lot of time in cell to think about his actions.