You cannot help but have seen the decision of Ecuador to grant Julian Assange asylum from Sweden/USA/UK/etc. As expected, the internet has exploded with arguments and conspiracy theories.
You do not have to believe that Julian Assange is guilty to disbelieve the more ludicrous conspiracy theory being promoted by Wikileaks at the moment.
To understand this, let’s look at four possible ways of analysing what’s going on.
1. US Conspiracy
The central allegation is that the USA is using these proceedings to extradite him and subject him to a trial for treason, where he is at risk of being subjected to the death penalty.
Looking solely at what is the incontrovertible legal situation, this is what you have to be alleging if you want to make this story stick:
The United States, in order to prosecute an Australian national with a view to subjecting him to the death penalty, has persuaded two individuals to accuse him of a crime that is notoriously difficult to prove, in order to get him extradited from a country with a very US-friendly extradition treaty, to another country with much stronger protections against extraditions to the USA. This extraditing country is legally unable to extradite him to the USA if he faces the death penalty. This is done using a legal mechanism that then requires both countries to approve his extradition to the USA. This is to be done using a legal framework that has already taken the best part of two years with no end in sight, with multiple legal obstacles along the way in both the past and future.
Alternatively, they have done this to engage in extraordinary rendition of a man with a gargantuan media profile, and without regard to the major diplomatic outcry this would cause from the UK, Sweden, Australia, the EU and the rest of the world.
This is to be done in preference to:
- Extraditing him directly from the UK;
- Waiting for a man with a reputation for being itinerant to walk into a friendlier jurisdiction; or
- Waiting for him to settle in Sweden before commencing proceedings.
2. US Conspiracy Lite
The alternative, broadly, is this:
The USA persuaded two women to concoct false charges against Julian Assange to trash his credibility. Assange has decided to avoid a trial if at all possible as he doesn’t fancy his chances on a politically motivated charge.
3. Assange is Innocent
The women are mistaken or lying. The case is false, but the USA has nothing to do with it. Assange has decided to avoid a trial if possible for the simple reason that he wants to avoid litigation risk if at all possible.
4. Assange is Guilty
Julian Assange is a rapist and is trying to evade justice.
Of these theories, fair-minded people would say that both 3 and 4 remain on the table until he has been tried. Number 2 is conceivable, though most people would view it as unlikely. But number 1 is ludicrous. Why wikileaks and Assange’s lawyers are running with this argument is beyond me.