LibCon: is the process fair to Julian Assange?

by Carl Gardner on December 22, 2010

Sunny Hundal has published an important piece at Liberal Conspiracy today – one that Benjamin Gray has contributed to, as have I, a bit – arising from Ben Goldacre’s frustration that the mainstream media didn’t seem to be fact-checking the claims and implications of unfairness being made by or on behalf of Julian Assange over the last couple of weeks.

I share the frustration that the media hasn’t seemed to be examining the claims that have been made. Last week I felt I was beginning to understand how a story can begin to take a particular shape because most of what we’re told about it comes from one, interested source. I’m not of course accusing Julian Assange or any of his lawyers of misleading us. But he’s naturally defending himself, and they are doing their job of courtroom and public advocacy for him. What they say is obviously one side of the story. It should not merely be accepted uncritically by journalists or bloggers, any more than what’s said by any official source.

I agree with Ben Goldacre too that this is the digging people can sensibly do. It’s not only pointless for anyone to try to get to the bottom of the Swedish criminal suspicions against him – it’s wrong. He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial by a proper court if the matter gets that far; he shouldn’t have to face an ignorant mob-trial by television, blogpost or tweet. I also think it’s wrong for anyone who’s not seen the evidence simply to dismiss or disparage allegations of rape and sexual assault. The women who’ve apparently made accusations in this case are entitled to have what they’ve said properly investigated and evaluated by the Swedish authorities, and to privacy beyond that.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 James Medhurst December 22, 2010 at 17:12

Hooray. This is very important stuff but there is a lot more that can be said. For example, Mark Stephens claimed in his interview with Charon QC that the lawyer who is representing the complainants was a member of the right-wing Swedish government, by which he presumably means the current coalition, led by the not-very-right-wing-sounding Moderate Party. In fact, Claes Borgstrom has never been a member of parliament but was head of an equality quango for several years – the closest parallel in the UK would probably be Trevor Phillips. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party and was appointed to the role by a Social Democrat led coalition. He retired in 2007 shortly after the current coalition came into power. He restarted his legal practice and no longer holds a public position.

Even if Mark Stephens is not being deliberately misleading, if I was Julian Assange, I would disinstruct him for fear of losing credibility.

2 nemo December 22, 2010 at 21:00

Carl,

to be pedantic on your last sentence, it is actually NOT apparent that
the women have themselves made any accusations, but rather have
merely asked for advice, and then due to suspicions of an offence
they have been interviewed and then the prosecutor is obliged to
investigate. (I have been asking about this in the CPS thread).
So perhaps it would be prudent not to claim the women themselves have made accusations unless that is a checked fact.

It appears that the lawers are appointed (and paid?)
by the prosecution service. It would be very helpful to get to
the facts of this and in particular surrounding the
calling for a review, which I gather was made by Claes Borgstrom.
Did he request this on instructions from either of the women,
or if was it his idea and he did it under power of attorney or
by convincing them or independently as an interested person
(if that is possible there).
This happened around 24 Aug 2010, at which point there was a
press conference held with the two women present giving interviews
along with the two lawyers. It would be helpful to find a more
complete record of what was said at that event.

The breaches of privacy started around 16 Aug [2],
and the Swedish prosecutor has issued numerous press releases
since about 21 Aug containing Assange’s name e.g. [3]

[1]
http://sverigesradio.se/sida/gruppsida.aspx?programID=2054&Nyheter=0&grupp=9392&artikel=3946725

[2]
http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=3938212

[3]
http://www.aklagare.se/Media/Nyheter/Anhallen-i-sin-franvaro/

3 nemo December 22, 2010 at 21:23

Carl,

to be pedantic on your last sentence, it is actually NOT apparent that
the women have themselves made any accusations, but rather have merely asked for advice, and then due to suspicions of an offence they have been interviewed and then the prosecutor is obliged to investigate. (I have been asking about this in the CPS thread).
So perhaps it would be prudent not to claim the women themselves have made accusations unless that is a checked fact 🙂

It appears that the lawers are appointed (and paid?) by the prosecution service. It would be very helpful to get to the facts of this and in particular surrounding the calling for a review, which I gather was made by Claes Borgstrom.
Did he request this on instructions from either of the women, or if was it his idea and he did it under power of attorney or by convincing them or independently as an interested person (if that is possible there).
This happened around 24 Aug 2010, at which point there was a press conference held with the two women present giving interviews along with the two lawyers. It would be helpful to find a more complete record of what was said at that event.

The breaches of privacy started around 16 Aug [2], and the Swedish prosecutor has issued numerous press releases since about 21 Aug containing Assange’s name e.g. [3]

[1] http://sverigesradio.se/sida/gruppsida.aspx?programID=2054&Nyheter=0&grupp=9392&artikel=3946725
[2] http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=3938212
[3] http://www.aklagare.se/Media/Nyheter/Anhallen-i-sin-franvaro/

4 nemo December 22, 2010 at 21:48

Carl

to be pedantic on your last sentence, it is actually NOT apparent that the women have themselves made any accusations, but rather have merely asked for advice, and then due to suspicions of an offence
they have been interviewed and then the prosecutor is obliged to investigate. (I have been asking about this in the CPS thread).
So perhaps it would be prudent not to claim the women themselves havemade accusations unless that is a checked fact. 🙂

It appears that the lawers are appointed (and paid?) by the prosecution service. It would be very helpful to get to the facts of this and in particular surrounding the calling for a review, which I gather was made by Claes Borgstrom.
Did he request this on instructions from either of the women, or if was it his idea and he did it under power of attorney or by convincing them or independently as an interested person (if that is possible there). This happened around 24 Aug 2010, at which point there was a press conference held with the two women present giving interviews along with the two lawyers. It would be helpful to find a more complete record of what was said at that event.

The breaches of privacy started around 16 Aug [2], and the Swedish prosecutor has issued numerous press releases since about 21 Aug containing Assange’s name e.g. [3]

(sorry – the blog is not accepting the full links)
[1,2] search on Assange under http://sverigesradio.se
[3] http://www.aklagare.se/Media/Nyheter/Anhallen-i-sin-franvaro/

5 nemo December 22, 2010 at 22:12

Carl, (trying yet again to have my post not be filtered…)

to be pedantic on your last sentence, it is actually NOT apparent that the women have themselves made any accusations, but rather have
merely asked for advice, and then due to suspicions of an offence they have been interviewed and then the prosecutor is obliged to investigate.
(I have been asking about this in the CPS thread).
So perhaps it would be prudent not to claim the women themselves have made accusations unless that is a checked fact. 🙂

It appears that the lawers are appointed (and paid?) by the prosecution service. It would be very helpful to get to the facts of this and in particular surrounding the calling for a review, which I gather was made by Claes Borgstrom.
Did he request this on instructions from either of the women, or was it his idea and he did it under power of attorney or by convincing them or independently as an interested person (if that is possible there).
Around 24 Aug 2010 there was a press conference held with the two women present giving interviews along with the two lawyers. It would be helpful to find a more complete record of what was said at that event.
The breaches of privacy started around 16 Aug [2], and the Swedish prosecutor has issued numerous press releases since about 21 Aug containing Assange’s name e.g. [3]

[1.2] search sverigesradio.se
[3] at http://www.aklagare.se/Media/Nyheter

6 nemo December 28, 2010 at 22:40

well to be pedantic about what I wrote myself :-),
to ensure no one refers to it as fact, after further searching and re-reading,
it is actually ambiguous if the two women were present
at the press event on 24 Aug. I think it is just a case of the convoluted
English missing the word “of”, and it is only describing the two lawyers.

I had based this on the following sentence in my reference [1] above:
“On Tuesday the newly appointed lawyers of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on one side, and the two women who accuse him of sexual harassment one the other, gave interviews to the media.”

Also, as every one knows, the breaches of privacy started around 20 Aug. I wrote above 16 Aug … while I’m sure something may have started then, it wasn’t that 🙂

Now, can anyone help with the details of the open questions I raise
in my previous comment? A new interview with Claes Borgstrom by The Associated Press dated Dec 24 adds weight to my doubts.

seasons greetings to all.

7 nemo December 28, 2010 at 22:58

(just a request re the problems posting comments)

Carl

I hope the friendly tone in which I write is conveyed in my comments.

I am a bit flustered to visit your web site again and to find all my several attempts to trim down the lines until one single post is accepted have now re-appeared in their multiple edits, cluttering up
the discussions here and in other topics which is certainly not my intention.

This form is very frustrating to use as it gives no indication what is ok as to number of lines or line length or whatever else it filters.

When you have a spare moment, might you be able
to clear out all but one of these multiple attempts here and
in the other thread(s) like the CPS one?
In future, would it be possible for you to check first to see if a comment has already been trimmed and sucessfully posted before releasing earlier versions to the site?

kind thanks in advance…

8 nemo January 12, 2011 at 23:08

Carl,

nice to see you back blogging. Can we expect an ongoing commentary on the Assange case, such as the provisional skeleton argument released at http://www.fsilaw.com?
How complete and final with all cited evidence does this need to be when it is filed (on the 14th is it)?

If this has the goal of covering all bases of possible argument, then I am surprised to see no mention of numerous aspects of Swedish politics that Wikileaks has stirred up in its association with the Pirate Party and the elections there last September, the Pirate Bay case,
as well as the Cable releases that have revealed activities leading to a constitutional investigation.

And on patterns of behaviour and allegations of conduct and ideology, it is surprising not to see Claes Borgstrom mentioned, nor the former Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom…

Also, if the prosecution gets to say that the extradition is
with a view to an actual prosecution, then they might argue considerable doubts that the case would proceed, as I have raised in other comments. Even if only for the sake of more accurate perceptions and reporting it would seem prudent to explain that this is prosecution through obligation not (?) accusation, etc.

Should anyone CLOSELY concerned with this skeleton framework be open to consider my observations or suggestions so as to cover all angles, then please URGENTLY leave a note of encouragement
and preferably suggest a more workable anonymous site for setting out or submitting many links and connections and timelines.

Carl, too, I hope you have the interest to respond and to keep commenting on this case.
kind regards.

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