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The questions surrounding the sex crime charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have only grown since Swedish prosecutors reopened the case in September. Two women in Sweden accuse him of "one count of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of unlawful coercion--or illegal use of force--allegedly committed in August," according to CNN. Now that Assange is in the custody of U.K. police on the Europe-wide warrant, he could face extradition to Sweden. But how legitimate are the charges? What do we really know? And just how plausible are the conspiracy theories that the warrant and planned extradition are not about rape at all but about Assange's highly controversial work with WikiLeaks?

  • The Sordid and Suspicious Story  The Daily Mail's Richard Pendlebury investigates what he says is the entire story of what happened in Sweden, which he says reveals "several puzzling flaws in the prosecution case." Pendlebury even includes blurred photos of the two accusers. A key moment comes when "the female [Swedish police] interviewing officer, presumably because of allegations of a sabotaged condom in one case and a refusal to wear one in the ­second, concluded that both women were victims: that ­Jessica had been raped, and Sarah subject to sexual molestation." Pendlebury concludes:

The Stockholm police want to question [Assange] regarding the possible rape of a woman and separate allegations from another Swedish admirer, with whom he was having a concurrent fling. But there remains a huge question mark over the evidence. Many people believe that the 39-year-old ­Australian-born whistleblower is the victim of a U.S. government dirty tricks campaign. They argue that the whole squalid affair is a sexfalla, which translates loosely from the Swedish as a 'honeytrap'.

  • It's More Complicated--And Could Be Rape  Feministe's Jill Filipovic, a lawyer, says it could be considered "withdrawal of consent," which is a form of sexual assault, if the sex became non-consensual during the act. In the first case, when his condom broke, Assange refused his partner's request to stop, which made his act assault. In the second case, "condom use was negotiated for and Assange agreed to wear a condom but didn’t, and the woman didn’t realize it until after they had sex." Filipovic says "withdrawal of consent" is often considered rape in Sweden, but is often not in the U.S., which may be why U.S. observers seem not to believe the charges.
  • Even If He Did It, Legal Process Is Highly Suspicious  "It is difficult to get authorities to act on uncorroborated allegations of rape," writes a skeptical Lindsay Beyerstein. "It is curious that charges against Assange were brought, dropped almost immediately, and later reinstated. The fact that authorities were so quick to charge Assange based on uncorroborated testimony should raise questions about whether prosecutors are treating him differently from your run-of-the-mill alleged sex criminal. ... We can agree that the legal response to what Assange allegedly did reeks of politically-motivated prosecution without passing judgment on the merits of the allegations against him."
  • All Part of International Plot Against WikiLeaks   "Just look at what the U.S. Government and its friends are willing to do and capable of doing to someone who challenges or defies them -- all without any charges being filed or a shred of legal authority," writes Salon's Glenn Greenwald.
They've blocked access to their assets, tried to remove them from the Internet, bullied most everyone out of doing any business with them, froze[n] the funds marked for Assange's legal defense at exactly the time that they prepare a strange international arrest warrant to be executed, repeatedly threatened him with murder, had their Australian vassals openly threaten to revoke his passport, and declared them 'Terrorists' even though--unlike the authorities who are doing all of these things--neither Assange nor WikiLeaks ever engaged in violence, advocated violence, or caused the slaughter of civilians.
  • Both Sides Hypocritical on Sexual Assault   "It has been very interesting (predictable?)," sighs Feminist blogger Terri Whitehouse, "to see how quickly people who would normally be feminist allies have been pretty quick to slut-shame and victim-blame (or, at best, victim-dismiss), while people who have demonstrably proven to be enemies of women's bodily autonomy in the past so suddenly seem to give a shit about a few sexual assaults across the world."
  • The Middle Ground  An idea from Twitter:

Pondering why so many folks think Mr. Assange can't be a crusading whistleblower and guilty of sex crimes at the same time. *ducks*less than a minute ago via web

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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