After months of accusations that Sweden's legal system is backwards and dysfunctional, the Swedish press is eager to give WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a taste of justice. Today, Assange lost his final appeal in British court, which means he'll likely be extradited to Sweden where he stands accused of rape and sexual assault. In defending their client, Assange's lawyers often denigrated Sweden's legal system triggering rumors that men are considered rapists if they have consensual sex without a condom or that the country's courts are beholden to imperial U.S. interests. Now that Assange will likely be transfered to Sweden, a number of Swedes are eager to blow a hole in the myths and misconceptions about their country.
"Assange can be safe in the knowledge that his cause will be given a fair and neutral treatment of Swedish authorities and courts," wrote Marten Shultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University, in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Dismissing claims that Sweden's sex crime laws are very different than most Western laws, he explained "I shall not be sentenced for rape [if] my condom breaks during a sexual act. However, I can be convicted of rape if I have sex with a sleeping or unconscious person, just like in many other countries." He dismissed the idea that Assange would be hastily ushered on a "CIA-chartered plane" and expressed relief that the "caricature" that Assange's lawyers painted of the Swedish legal system will finally be debunked.
Mattias Karlsson, a columnist for Ystads Allehanda, a Swedish newspaper, also applauded the ruling, saying Assange has nothing to worry about so long as he's innocent. "Equality before the law applies to everyone, even for a person [like] Assange," Karlsson wrote. "His actions suggest that he considers himself more than others." In the piece, titled "Welcome, Mr. Assange," Karlsson added that not transferring Assange would've meant undermining the European system of arrest warrants.
Sweden's The Local, interviewed a dozen Swedes about the case and found that the overwhelming majority expressed faith in the justice system. "I think it's crazy that he's so afraid of being sent here. The Swedish judicial system will be right and bring him to justice," said 66-year-old named Lena. "Hopefully we can get some answers now that he's been extradited. These women he has allegedly assaulted need to find justice too," said two other women the paper spoke with. "It's the correct decision," said George, a 20-year-old Stockholmer. "He put himself above the law... I don't see why he should think this is a conspiracy." Another woman doubted Sweden would send him to the U.S. "I'm glad he's been sent back. I believe the Swedish justice system is correct and he won't be sent to the United States."
The accusations themselves stem from an incident in August 2010 when Assange had two sexual encounters with women in Stockholm. "One later complained to police that he had not used a condom, despite her insistence, and another that he had had sex with her while she was asleep," The Sydney Morning Herald's Karen Kissane explains. "Mr Assange strongly denies the claims and says the encounters were fully consensual." Though the Swedes may be confident, it's anyone's guess how the incident will play out once he's in Sweden.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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