As if WikiLeaks' illicit obtainment of U.S. diplomatic cables wasn't tawdry enough, international authorities are looking for Julian Assange--not to exact retribution for his seedy and exciting mergence of journalism and espionage, but because he's accused of rape, adding a new dimension of uncertainty to whether or not Assange is nefarious.
Over the past year and a half, particularly since WikiLeaks' release this past spring of a video that showed U.S. troops gunning down civilians from a helicopter in Iraq in 2007, the 39-year-old Assange has become a fascinating figure, and the world is still deciding what to make of him. He looks like a blonde Andrew McCarthy, and it's tough to decide whether his thinly effeminate looks and subversive professional methods should be interpreted as daring or sleaze.
The rape case, it seems, only adds to the intrigue. As does Assange's defense, which consists of this argument: I'm not a rapist, but rather a playboy, falsely accused by jealous women after they found out about each other.
Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens of the law firm Finers Stephens Innocent (described by the London Evening Standard as a "smart media lawyer, with a ready soundbite"), categorized the charges as such in a November 18 press release:
...even the substance of the allegations, as revealed to the press through unauthorized disclosures do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported "the basis for the rape charge" purely seems to constitute a post-facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event. Both women have declared that they had consensual sexual relations with our client and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other's relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him.
Life is tough for a self-declared international playboy.