Robert Weller Headshot

Can Sweden Be Believed On Wikileaks Rape Case?

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Now that it is known that the U.S. had advised Sweden of planned surveillance that Stockholm claimed was conducted without their knowledge, it raises more questions about the handling of the Wikileaks case.

The same government is now saying it didn't know Julian Assange had offered to be interviewed on allegations of rape and sexual molestation, even though the offers were made publicly and frequently immediately after the claims first were leaked nearly three months ago.

Reminds me of a hearing in the prosecution of a U.S. Army soldier accused of throwing an Iraqi into a river and watching him drown. Prosecutors said there was a witness but they couldn't find him. A defense lawyer challenged that, saying an international news agency had found him and conducted an interview. I worked for that agency so the military judge asked if anyone from the agency was present. Others pointed at me and judge popped up and came to ask me, at which point I refused to answer any questions. And a higher officer said this wasn't appropriate.

Back to the surveillance. When it was disclosed in Norway and Denmark earlier this month that American security officials had spied on their citizens, Sweden chimed in that similar surveillance had taken place on its territory. Officials said they were disappointed that they hadn't been informed, and that it might be investigated.

The Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported Friday that leaked documents show the government and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh were informed. U.S. officials had already said the program was not a secret.

The surveillance began after the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and was intended to make sure the embassy in Sweden was safe. Compare this with the prosecutor's claim that she didn't know Assange had offered to be interviewed.

That he remained in Sweden for more than a month makes clear police could have interrogated him. Mark Stephens, Assange's British lawyer, said the Wikileaks founder offered to be interviewed during a visit to Sweden's embassy in London but it was declined.

In perhaps the understatement of the week, prosecutor Marianne Ny said Assange was a flight risk. He apparently left Sweden more than a month ago, though immigration officials certainly could have stopped him. Ny did not explain why a suspected rapist had been allowed to roam the country freely without being picked up.

Bjorn Hurtig, Assange's lawyer in Sweden, said his client had been told he was free to leave Sweden even though the interview had not occurred.

Although the process of issuing an international arrest warrant has begun, according to Ny, there is another possible hurdle. Assange's lawyers say they are appealing the arrest warrant. At the risk of sounding likely a badly encoded MP3 file, it sounds so much Lisbeth Salander's plight in Stieg Larsson's "Millenium Trilogy."