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i Editor's Letter: The 'less complicated' case of Assange


Stefano Hatfield
Monday 20 August 2012 00:27 BST

Just over a year ago, Julian Assange was a liberal icon. In the months before his fall-outs with The Guardian and The New York Times, his image was of renegade truth-teller sticking it to "The Man". WikiLeaks and its partners' series of revelations looked set to cause a world of pain for the US Government and major corporations.

How the halo has been tarnished. The fall-outs, the realisation that many of the highly-anticipated, revelations were ho-hum, the increasingly egocentric and paranoid behaviour and a disturbing messiah complex saw Assange, not the leaks, become the story.

And then came the sexual assault allegations. We can argue the toss over whether the alleged activities constitute rape or not, but they are allegations of serious sexual assault. It is disturbing, to say the least, to see so many, be they Assange-supporting liberals, or the government of Ecuador, attempt to trivialise the allegations. He must go to Sweden to face them, regardless of whether the Swedes agree to guarantee not to extradite him to the US or not.

That said, Bradley Manning, the US intelligence analyst suspected of Wiki-leaking, has spent over 800 days in detention without trial, outrageous by any civilised yardstick. The US Government emerges with little credit from this affair.

None of the above justifies Assange's hypocrisy in attacking the US for "journalistic oppression", while praising "brave" Ecuador, jailer of critical journalists.

Wanting Assange to answer questions about sexual encounters which, his own lawyer admitted, the women involved may have found "disrespectful, discourteous or disturbing" is no "witch-hunt".

But the whole affair is insulting to Sweden, a country noted for its liberal-minded fairness, and rather less known for being a US poodle than our own. The more I think about it, the less complicated the Assange affair actually seems.

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