Tuesday, December 7. 2010
So, Julian Assange is in custody and being kept in bail, in part for his own safety!
It's an interesting conundrum really, of jurisprudence. I'm not sure about the judgement to refuse him bail but I'm not automatically saying it's wrong. I'm pretty sure he could arrange to be spirited away and from that point of view he is a flight risk. Against that, it seems he turned up in court after the police phoned his lawyer and asked him to show up - that seems to strongly suggest a willingness to engage with the legal process so you have to ask why would he flee? He could have fled before the court appearance just as easily surely, because there was little doubt he would be remanded to come back to court for extradition.
The European "super-warrant" treaty is causing some interesting commentaries too. Apparently under this system the court binding him for extradition (that's the British system here) doesn't have any evidence, any say in the matter. If the paperwork is right they're meant to just bundle him up and hand him over. Of course we tend to believe that the other countries in the EU have reasonably fair judicial systems so we're not handing him over to a kangaroo court - and certainly I've never heard anyone suggest Sweden has anything but a fair judicial system. But, in a lovely clash of politics, people from all sides of our political spectrum are loudly wondering about the system. Why? Well one side wonders about malicious litigation and handing people over for crimes that are just imagined and all the fun (and cost) of that. That's the liberal approach. The more right-wing approach tends to be based in Euro-scepticism and think it's a bad idea to let Europe have these super-powers. Still it's fun.
And then there are the details of the charges. Rape has been the word bandied around for some time. It turns out to be two reports of unprotected sex with otherwise (apparently) willing partners. One was woken up for sex, the other asked for a condom to be used but this was refused. Rape? Um... pass. Certainly pretty tacky behaviour, but behaviour it's hard to prove, harder than rape I'd have thought - and rape is hard enough to prove, whether that's a function of our police, our court system, or problems with actually proving the crime itself. One of the staples though is the "vaginal clock" if you believe your CSI. But unless you wake up and get a semen sample the next morning and so on, I'm wondering how the accusation becomes more than he-says-she-says. And while my sympathies pretty much automatically lie with the woman in these cases, assuming he's guilty in such a case sounds like a rather dangerous precedent, even to me. Especially in a case where a lot of people are going to assume it's all a fabrication set up to (try and) discredit someone who is embarrassing the USA.
I am, again, left wondering though. It's not clear to me that Assange has done what he's been accused of. But it feels remarkably like someone... can't think who... is trying to defame him and reduce the impact of his washing their dirty laundry in public. You'd have thought they might realise how badly it's backfiring though. A case that would probably otherwise have hardly made the news is headline news all over the place and in this day and age of online news with hyperlinks is just letting more and more of us read the information that they don't want us to look at. Hacking the site and all... SOMEONE is always going to host it you know, too many geeks world-wide who love the idea that information wants to be free to stop that. The only flicker of doubt that's surfaced ever is wondering if they really can be that stupid about how this story could play. But then I hear stupid comments like people saying "The Wikileaks publications prove how critical stopping cyberterrorism is" with a straight face. Likeliest source for these documents? An internal whistleblower, certainly not someone hacking in to the state department or similar. It's not cyber-terrorism. It might be a failure of the vetting process to let someone likely to do this have sufficient access to get to the information. But a lot of people at the top are making daft decisions and the more you hear them talk the more it sounds like they don't know what they're talking about. They live in an isolate bubble and don't understand what's going on in the world the rest of us live in. And this is democracy...
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