Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Did Swedish Prosecutors Break Their Own Policy in the Assange Case?


[a followup post on this story is available here]


The "why" of the quickly-withdrawn 'case' against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange seems clear enough--it has all the initial indicators of a fabricated attempt to defame him.  But the "how" of this attempt is murky.  Here's an admittedly rough translation of part of the Swedish Prosecution Authority FAQ on their actions to date regarding Assange (Google translation edited for clarity):

Why was Julian Assange's name published?
Prosecutors do not normally publish the names of arrested persons, and the Swedish Prosecution Authority was not the source [cause] of Assange's name [being published] in this case.  Assange's information reached - in a way that the authority does not know - a news service. The prosecutor's office merely confirmed the information.
If the above is true, why didn't the Authority simply issue a "no-comment / ongoing investigation" statement rather than confirming that Assange was indeed the subject of investigation?  If it is indeed the Prosecution Authority's policy not to release identities, the act of confirming an identity and making it public is no less a violation of policy than announcing Assange's name outright.   

And if the Prosecution Authority is being truthful that it did not leak Assange's name as part of a false smear effort, who did?

So far, the explanations offered by the Prosecution Authority do not even begin to explain an apparent failure to follow their own policies.  All this, needless to say, doesn't even touch on the remarkable flimsiness of the case, which was withdrawn within hours of being issued. 




From Comments:



Commenter HT points to this piece, in which a former chief prosecutor assails the methods used in the Assange case (again, edited from Google translator for clarity):

Sven-Erik Alhem believes that on-call prosecutor Mary Häljebo Kjell Beach erred by telling the media that Julian Assange was suspected of rape and charged in his absence. "An arrest warrant in the absence [of the charged individual?] would not normally be trumpeted out. It normally would remain confidential. In principle I do not think you should talk about who is charged in his absence" he said.

Ergo comments that the prosecutor responsible for the initial charge against Assange has been reported to the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO).  This is not necessarily a serious charge, and is certainly not any form of proof of negligence, as anyone can report a Swedish official to the JO, including non-Swedsh citizens or organizations.  It may, however, produce some clarity on what has transpired within the Prosecution Authority during this 'case'.

- - -

Readers interested in more context on the events surrounding the case should take a look at Nicholas Mead's coverage here.


- - -

In this interview on al Jazeera today, a spokesperson representing Sweden's Prosecution Authority states that the agency stands behind its recent actions against Assange.  Remarkably, she also refused to comment, several times, regarding various aspects of the case, because of "ongoing investigations."   I'm mystified by the sudden onset of tight lips on this--if the Prosecution Authority can not discuss the particulars of the investigation now, why were they so free with this same information previously?  What has changed between then, and now?



49 comments:

  1. The case wasn't withdrawn, it was changed from rape to molestation. Molestation isn't cause for a warrant. Therefore the warrant was retracted. That said, I won't defend the crappy handling of this matter by the Prosecution Authority.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You sure bout that Ergo? From what I've read it seems there were two very distinct charges, rape AND molestation against two specific people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The initial charge was rape and molestation from two separate women. The rape charge was dropped. The molestation charge remains. Whether one case was dropped completely or both were downgraded to 2 cases of molestation I don't know.

    In an interview with one of the women she claimed she and the other women had very similar experiences, but saw it differently. One said it was rape, one said it was molestation. And now the molestation charge is what remains. Excuse the long comment.

    ReplyDelete
  4. None of which answers the underlying question here-why did the prosecutor's office act as it did in this individual case?

    ReplyDelete
  5. @ergo
    Can you provide a link to the interview with this woman, besides this, the original question stays.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Prostitutes are manipulated and persuaded to do strange things for money all the time. Some probably would prefer framing an innocent person to the other tasks that they're used to. Many prostitutes are 'sex slaves' who must follow the orders of their owners.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think that the word "molestation" in the accusations is the most telling. Looks like the whole thing was engineered just to deliver this word and Assange in the same sentence. "Rape" wasn't the target because it's hard for people to imagine this middle aged, slow, smiley and skinny man raping anything bigger than a midget. But molestation, well, that sounds like just the thing...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here's one interview: http://www.expressen.se/Nyheter/1.2105783/kvinnan-han-gick-for-langt

    Also, the former chief prosecutor has some critical comments on the way the case was handled: http://www.expressen.se/Nyheter/1.2106298/alhem-kraver-en-forklaring

    ReplyDelete
  9. http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article7654860.ab Its in swedish tho. As I stated in my first comment, I'm not out to defend the PA, but I'm searching for answers.

    Here comes the guesswork: The only explanation I can think of after reading at their website is that the investigation hadn't been labled "confidential" and therefore confirming Assanges identity when it was leaked to the press wasn't against policy.

    A victim or suspects identity is normally not published in newspapers, if its not deemed of "high public interest". Another possibility is therefore that the PA wasn't aware of Assanges high profile status and when confirming his identity, didn't know that this would get in the papers straight away.

    And once again, I'm not out to in any way deny that they handled this like amateurs.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The wording of the Swedish Prosecutor's Office is murky, due in part to translation no doubt. However it does appear that there were two 'cases' against Assange, one of which glosses as 'molestation'. What that charge is actually about is entirely unclear.

    The prosecutor's office needs to bring much more clarity to what they've done relating to Assange, and why.

    ReplyDelete
  11. AN OBVIOUS SETUP BY SPOOKS

    This is an obvious setup by spooks. As Mr. Assange stated, "We deal with organisations that do not follow the rules. We deal with intelligence agencies." The spooks should have crashed his airplane or pulled a Jack Ruby. This is a really pathetic attack on Wikileaks and it's so obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It is now clear that one of the women involved, Anna Ardin, specializes in women’s rights as part of her work. She would have known the legal process intimately when it comes to reporting rape cases in Sweden and may also have been aware that on the Friday night when she made the accusation, the Chief Prosecutor would have been on holiday for the weekend. In her place, was Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand – a more inexperienced prosecutor who as we now know, mistakenly rushed out an arrest warrant for Assange.

    It was known from the start that Ardin didn’t make an official allegation of rape at the police station. She merely said she “wanted some advice on what to do” knowing that by doing so, legally she couldn’t later be accused of making a false accusation or charged with wasting police time if the allegations turned out to be false. However, her knowledge of the legal procedure when it comes to reporting rape in Sweden meant she knew that legally, the police had to record it as a rape incident and thus set the wheels in motion to capture the so called rapist.

    In other words, it’s a legal loophole that makes it possible to make a false accusation with no fear of recriminations for wasting police time or making false accusations.

    http://nicholasmead.com/2010/08/21/how-to-smear-a-hero/#comments

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't think they handled this like amateurs i think they leaked on purpose because someone behindit wanted Wikileaks to look bad.

    :(

    ReplyDelete
  14. You can't "pull a Jack Ruby" without first arresting somebody. And they don't have to be shot. We have plenty of ways to kill somebody and make it appear to be a natural death. So a person is arrested, they get a visit from a CIA or other government agent, and they die of a "natural" heart attack.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Update: The first prosecutor in this case, Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand, has now been reported to the JO. JO is responsible for making sure government agencies do their job.

    http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/aklagaren-maria-haljebo-kjellstrand-jo-anmald-1.1157428

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sounds very much like the Scott Ritter "case".

    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j012203.html

    ReplyDelete
  17. The reporting to JO is not really significant at this stage, as anybody can do that.

    It seems Anna Ardin has acted as a press secretary for Assange: http://www.skandinaviflorida.com/web/sif.nsf/d6plinks/JEIE-88KGKQ

    ReplyDelete
  18. Don't laugh, but what I read from the googletranslations, he only had consentual sex with at least one of them, which is normal for a grownup man.
    For some reason she was not satisfied and asked advice to some people.
    Somehow some hotshot saw something "to go after Wikileaks in it", and acted.

    ReplyDelete
  19. It might be and is a practice that the name is not published. However, it doesn't mean that it cannot be published.

    Once the identity has leaked and the authorities are pressured about it - it becomes public interest. In such a situation, if there is no reason not to publish and/or the public interest outweighs the reasons - the name can be published.

    In a similar manner, in Scandinavian countries there is usually the practice that once an international warrant has been issued it is not published on the public Interpol website. However, it can be, if the authorities so wish

    ReplyDelete
  20. Leaks from swedish authorities happen all the time. The authority is not allowed to do research into its leaks. This is part of swedish freedom of the press law – why Wikileaks went to Sweden in the first place.

    https://lagen.nu/1949:105#K3P4S1

    The source of a leak like this will typically not be known. The journalist receiving the info may not reveal the source, and other journalists don't want to compromise that confidentiality.

    https://lagen.nu/1949:105#K3P3S1

    It is too early too tell if this is a smear campaign. Hold your judgements!

    What will happen next is that the police report will become public. This will lead to discussions all over the world on what happened between Assange and these women. In graphical detail.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I do not believe in the Swedish version of the whole thing. Conspiarcy and a trap might sound logical in this case. A Feminist prosecutor in a rape issue is always deemed to be controversial. We need to know the whole truth at the end of the day.

    ReplyDelete
  22. To suggest that there is a conspiracy behind the whole thing involving the females, police and prosecutor - and that all this is happening in Sweden under the control of FBI, CIA etc. is absurd.

    To suggest that Mr. Wikileaks had sex with someone who possibly is crazy - might be closer to the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you all for the comments and links. I wish I could accurately translate the Swedish media stories linked here--but perhaps that will be made clearer as media coverage continues.

    ReplyDelete
  24. @Jan, I'm not sure if "crazy" is fair but certainly there should be concern about her mental health according to this latest dramatic news:

    http://tinyurl.com/2v4knz4

    ReplyDelete
  25. This still stinks of something sinister... I suggest they (wikileaks) come up with some iron contingency plans as their ranks get picked off by dangerous governments...

    ReplyDelete
  26. You know, if you have sex with somebody you don't like afterwards, it's obviously rape.

    Like I was seeing this girl a while back, we had a lot of fun, but now I realize I don't like her anymore. So, I have to say she molested me.

    I hope we can get all the facts in this case before somebody puts out a smear explanation to this smear.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Regarding your added translation, you write: ""An arrest warrant in the absence [of the charged individual?] would not normally be trumpeted out"

    You are correct in what "arrested in absense" means. Its someones arrest without the person being present. A warrant is the next step, so that the police will start looking for him and the person being brought into custody when they find him.

    ReplyDelete
  28. We would like to see all the facts. Now, however, it appears that Mr. Wikileaks is not willing to confirm whether or not he had sex and/or had anything to do with these two females in the first place. According to the article in Aftonbladet he doesn't want to confirm it as it is a private matter. Well, it is a private matter, but the circumstances are highly unusual, too.

    One doesn't need to be a nuclear scientist to note that this is the biggest event in Wikileaks history, and that a strategic player would be milking everything out of this. One way of doing this, of course, would be to keep the topic hot as long as one can.

    ReplyDelete
  29. As to the widely circulating conspiracy theory - in which Mr. Wikileaks seems to believe himself, and which I say is bordering on schizophrenia:

    What on earth would've been the purpose of this if it was a conspiracy? What would anyone gain from this? Issuing a warrant - and the withdrawing it?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Jan: Only one person has so far claimed the obvious - that the Pirate Party staged this. Soon they will alibi Assange out and gain sympathy votes ;)

    For those who are unaware - another suspicious timing issue is the swedish general elections that takes place Sep 15th. The party that supports WikiLeaks here probably won't get into parliament. But if they would get that extra attention... ;)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Look at the pictures and comment to the article from the Ukrainian Institute of New Virology on http://uionv.com/.

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Ergo, If it was me identifying and spreading these conspiracy theories I would claim that this whole thing was set up by Mr. Wikileaks himself. :) Who else is getting something out of this? His face is on the cover of every publication around the world. He is walking around with a victim status. Everyone is pointing at his enemy CIA, FBI, even Obama for God's sake.

    Why would he do this? Maybe he was too afraid of an assassination that he had to do something, and this is what he came up with. Brilliant, if you ask me. Now his every move is being followed and if something happens to him, well, everyone knows who to blame. :)

    Now, I need to take my evening medication.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Dude they just want to kill assange or put him behind bars on a secluded island, torture him then get his servers codes and location to bomb em and shut down wikileaks, that`s how they always do, it`s common sense

    ReplyDelete
  34. You have an English version of the Swedish prosecuting authority's Q&A here: http://www.aklagare.se/In-English/ .

    There's a misconception here I fear: I cannot see why the prosecution authority should have withheld the name of Assange when interrogated by journalists - media published the name of Assange, not initially the prosecution authority.

    Btw, as a Swedish-speaking jurist I've translated part of the legal and media material in the Julian Assange rape charges - it's here: http://ibnkafkasobiterdicta.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/the-legal-twists-and-turns-of-the-rape-charges-against-julian-assange/

    ReplyDelete
  35. ibnkafka,

    "I cannot see why the prosecution authority should have withheld the name of Assange when interrogated by journalists - media published the name of Assange, not initially the prosecution authority."

    First, it is my understanding that offering Assange's name was contrary to SPA normal proceedure. Second, they could have very easily declined to respond to the media question about Assange's identity--the SPA spokesperson did exactly that--refuse to respond--to several questions today during the al Jazeera interview. But instead of declining, they confirmed the identity and therefore enabled the media release--on a very serious charge that was so flimsy it was reversed in a matter of hours.

    ReplyDelete
  36. @casual observer:

    "Jan said...
    It might be and is a practice that the name is not published. However, it doesn't mean that it cannot be published.

    Once the identity has leaked and the authorities are pressured about it - it becomes public interest. In such a situation, if there is no reason not to publish and/or the public interest outweighs the reasons - the name can be published.

    In a similar manner, in Scandinavian countries there is usually the practice that once an international warrant has been issued it is not published on the public Interpol website. However, it can be, if the authorities so wish
    August 22, 2010 10:08 AM"

    ReplyDelete
  37. Today (Monday) media attacks the prosecutors office. Why was Assanges name made public? What is the explanation for the charge and the quick retraction? Is Assange still suspected of anything?

    The prosecutors have stopped answering questions; Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand has taken a leave until September 1 and Eva Finné has turned off her cellphone.

    http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article7657929.ab

    ReplyDelete
  38. Ever saw the Bourne Identity movie ? The company indeed has long and sneaky fingers.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Wikileaks starts claiming that he saw Jason Bourne around. And, needless to say, everything in the movies is true, indeed, they could be said to be docos.

    Who knows, maybe it was Nicky Parsons who claimed rape? :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Gnirre: It is actually a simple explanation for the quick retraction, I read early. At least according to the PO/PA.

    The first prosecutor was on call. It is customary that the on call prosecutor hands over their cases on Mondays. Since this was a high profile case, she did that on Saturday. Saturday the chief prosecutor Finné says she had "more information" and therefore made another decision - which IS NOT UNCOMMON. What this info is, we ofc don't know. But I feel like this has been blown out of proportion.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Gnirre: As an addition, I just read that rape over here is always treated with the higher suspicion, regardless of the evidence. So the first prosecutor did what the law said - the second prosecutor reviewed the evidence and dismissed the charges - also according to the law.

    ReplyDelete
  42. They didnt break their policy that way.
    Any decision made by an authority in Sweden becomes a public document, so when the media got their hands on the information they can legaly get the public documents in the case.

    What is more uncommon in Sweden is that anyone charge with rape gets away this easy.

    However the case is getting more interesting because the woman who made the allegation is an active politician who is a Christian - social democrat and a radical feminist, who has made some noise before.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Its not uncommon In Sweden that Men are convicted whitout any accual proof of being guilty to long time in prison, the only thing thats needed is a story that sounds "Thruthful" enough. Please Assange get to the bottom of this corrupt system and leak it.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Here's the answer from an authoritative Swedish source: http://www.skandinaviflorida.com/web/sif.nsf/d6plinks/JEIE-88KHYT

    One of the accusers actually worked for the tabloid the published the charges -

    See the editors comment @Michele about half way down the page:

    @Michele. It appears that the tabloid Expressen got the information about the arrest order directly from the person who is accusing Assange for molestation. She has worked for Expressen and if this is the sinister revenge action many believe the goal for all this is to smear Assange.

    ReplyDelete
  45. This whole thing is merely one step in a series that the powers to be have planned for Julian.I have been a "spook" of sorts all my life and can recognize the system of attack. This is probably step one. Assume nothing.
    1. suggest the problem
    2. demonstrate the problem
    3. Offer the solution.
    Typical cause and effect scenerio in progress.
    Those who think this a chance circumstance are naive at best.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Now the parties have named their lawyers. Mr. Assange is represented by Mr. Leif Silbersky and the female whose complaint is still standing by Mr. Claes Borgström. The latter is criticizing the handling of the case in that Mr. Assange has still not been questioned in relation to the open case.

    http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article7666480.ab

    ReplyDelete
  47. Mr. Assange will be investigated. Decision published 25 August 2010.

    ReplyDelete
  48. michele: She didn't work for Expressen. This misunderstanding has been widely spread.

    There is a newspaper called GT Expressen. Expressen in Gothenburg. But there is also GT, Gotlandstidningar. Gotland is the island the supposed accusor lived on/grew up at. She did NOT work for Expressen, she did freelance work for her local newspaper.

    But no matter how many times I write this, people will still spread the false statement because that suits their version of events better.

    ReplyDelete