Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Why Assange Lost My Support

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th August, 2012

The British government, in common with most of its other European and North American counterparts, disapproved of Wikileaks, as they saw the phenomenon as undermining the way the world goes about its diplomatic business. As a journalist, I took a contrary view and thought that this enforced openness taught ordinary people a lot about how states do their business, officially and unofficially. I applauded the Guardian’s publication of Wikileaks material and the way that Editor Alan Rusbridger handled the whole affair. So for a while I was quite positive about Julian Assange, though I never saw him as a knight in shining white armour. But the allegations against him of sexual asault in Sweden concerned me, as did his resistance to extradition to help with investigations there. There is no reason to think Sweden would accede to a further extradition request, this time from the United States, relating to Wikileaks, if the matter concerned could lead to a potential death sentence under US law, though his most strident supporters claim the opposite. Anyway, I thought it was brave and rather noble of a group of wealthy or influential friends and supporters of his to put up bail for him so he could live in relative comfort as a houseguest at a country house rather than in jail while the wheels of the British law ground. But when he jumped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, thereby dumping his friends and supporters in the shit and leaving them heavily out of pocket, I lost patience with him. Now he and his claque — including Ecuador’s President — are championing him as some sort of martyr for free speech, which he is not; his application for asylum was frankly absurd and he has become a self-publicist, playing to the gallery. There is a martyr in this whole business, however, and that is Bradley Manning, the poor young soldier who leaked a lot of the Wikileaks stuff while he was serving in Iraq. He has been languishing in a US prison, for much of the time in solitary confinement, yet his plight is largely ignored. That is where our sympathies should lie and our campaigning continue — for Manning’s release or at least civilised detention conditions for him.

6 Responses to “Why Assange Lost My Support”

  1. […] Why Assange Lost My Support on Jonathan Fryer’s blog. Jonathan says Bradley Manning is more deserving of a campaign for […]

  2. Anna Berent said

    I agree that Assange may not be a particularly nice man and he should certainly face the charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden. However, it is entirely understandable that he fears the prospect of being extradited from there to the USA – where (even with the death penalty being excluded) he could well face life imprisonment in conditions as appalling a those being inflicted on the unfortunate Bradley Manning. An undertaking from Sweden or, even better, fron the States could break the impasse.

    At least the UK gov. seems to have stepped back from charging in and creating a situation in which no embassy, of any country, anywhere in the world, could be confident of functioning without fear of ‘invasion’ if it were doing anything the host country didn’t much like.

  3. Do you think all those Britons who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia should be sent back there because they may have drunk illegal alcohol?

    • jonathanfryer said

      No I don’t. The situations are not comparable. Sweden is a member of the EU and has an excellent record on human rights. EU states can issue a European arrest warrant to transfer someone from one country to another within the Union to face charges relating to an alleged crime. I have no idea if Assange is guilty of sexual assault or not (he says he isn’t), but he should go to Sweden and have the matter settled either way. Britain has an obligation to extradite him to Sweden and it is outrageous that (a) he has sacrificed his friends’ bail money without their consent and (b) is costing the British taxpayer what will amount to millions in policing the way this affair is dragging on.

      • Saudi Arabia is a strict and puritanical state compared to Sweden.Anyone living in Saudi has to take great care concerning their conduct.It now seems one will have to take great care living in the unpuritanical state of Sweden!
        I would be very upset if I had posted bail for Mr.Assange but if you post bail for someone there is a certain amount of risk.In the knowledge that Mr Assange was a hacker I would not have trusted him.
        Computer hacking is a crime and so it is understandable that the USA might seek Mr Assange extradition as they did Gary McKinnon.

      • Alex Macfie said

        More to the point, the allegations against Assange would be regarded as criminal in the UK (whatever his supporters may say), whereas drinking alcohol is not. It is true that the EAW system does not respect the dual criminality principle (and I certainly think it should), and there are grave concerns about its misuse in many other cases, in this case there is little doubt: Assange would have a case to answer if the rape accusations were made here. And it would be much more difficult for Assange to be extradited to the US from Sweden than from the UK, so that is no excuse.

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