As much as Julian Assange would like the world to think his plight is all about freedom of speech, it isn’t.
It’s not about taking sides on how WikiLeaks has been disclosing the contents of secret documents. That’s important. But it doesn’t mean Assange should be allowed to manipulate the issue to avoid facing rape charges.
The founder of WikiLeaks has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, trying to avoid extradition to Sweden now that the British courts have ruled he should face accusations of rape and sexual molestation there.
Assange claims the charges were trumped up as part of a conspiracy to ultimately have him prosecuted in the United States for leaking classified government documents. He apparently has a believer in Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who has granted him asylum, and others.
Recently, standing on a balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy, Assange called on President Obama to “do the right thing.” His supporters cheered fervently as Assange asserted, “The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks.”
It was good theater, but his remarks did nothing to change the fact that two women have accused him of sexual assault. He says he is innocent, so prove it in court. It’s not as if he faces extradition to some country where the rule of law is a foreign concept.
Sweden is a well-respected democracy known to treat defendants fairly. Everyone is equal under the law. It is not a country with a reputation of ignoring its own judicial system to appease the United States or any other nation.
In fact, even if the United States does decide to seek to try Assange, Sweden, as a signer of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, is forbidden to extradite anyone to a country where he might face the death penalty. Espionage is a capital offense in the United States.
Correa should stop protecting Assange. Indeed, if he is so concerned about freedom of speech, he should try granting it to the people of Ecuador. Assange should be tried in Sweden.