Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Swedish Authorities Reverse Themselves Again in Assange Case

The Swedish Prosecution Authority has announced yet another course-change in the Assange case.  To quickly review, the initial "on-call" prosecutor in the case had brought rape and 'molestation' charges, only to have the rape charge dropped by a second overseeing prosecutor hours later.  The initial charge and immediate withdrawl by SPA was documented here (among many other venues) and brought criticism to SPA's handling of the issue.  While the rape charge was almost instantly dropped for lack of evidence, the lesser charge remained.  Today, the SPA released the following statement:

Decision on the request for review

Director of Public Prosecution Ms Marianne Ny has decided on the request for review in the Assange matter.

The investigation concerning rape will be reopened.

- There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Considering information available at present, my judgement is that the classification of the crime is rape. The basis for further considerations is not sufficient at the moment. More investigations are neccessary before a final decision can be made.

The investigation concerning molestation will be extended to include all allegations in the original police report.

- There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Based on the information available, the crimes in question come under the heading of sexual coercion and sexual molestation, respectively.

Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny will be leading the further investigations. She will be assisted by Deputy Chief Prosecutor Ms Erika Lejnefors.

- Due to the investigation and the persons involved in the matter, I cannot give more information concerning details in the investigation.

This latest reversal by Swedish authorities reopens the rape charge, and expands the lesser charge into "all allegations in the original police report", and appears to be based on the SPA claim that new information had come in on the case late on Tuesday.

Reversals of this type may be exceedingly rare in Sweden. The website has stated that for the year 2008, the number of SPA reversals of this sort made up less than one percent of all cases handled.  It is unclear to me where that data originates, and I have not verified it as of this posting.  However, if is correct, the Assange case re-reversal by SPA is highly unusual on procedural grounds alone.  While SPA's behavior here may be correct and appropriate, this case and their handling of it deserves the closest scrutiny.  

Underlying all this, of course, is the fact that SPA's behavior in this case single-handedly ensures that many news cycles will see headlines in which the words "Assange", "Rape" and "Molestation" occur in close proximity in news stories and headlines.  If someone wanted to deliberately attack and smear an opponent, this is precisely what they would want to see.

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