Wik­iLeaks founder’s woes over sex in Swe­den

As­sange’s de­fend­ers say women’s al­le­ga­tions are a hon­ey­trap

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - RICHARD PENDLE­BURY

ENKOP­ING, Swe­den: A win­ter morn­ing in back­woods Scan­di­navia and the chime of a church bell drifts across this town. Does it also toll for Wik­iLeaks’ Ju­lian As­sange?

To­day, this small in­dus­trial cen­tre is best-known as the birthplace of the ad­justable span­ner.

But if ex­tra­di­tion from Bri­tain is al­lowed by the court, it could soon be rather more cel­e­brated as the place where As­sange made a cat­a­strophic er­ror.

Here, in a dreary apart­ment block, the mas­ter­mind be­hind the leak­ing of more than 250 000 clas­si­fied US diplo­matic doc­u­ments slept with a fe­male ad­mirer. She sub­se­quently made a com­plaint to po­lice.

As a re­sult, As­sange, who is in Bri­tish cus­tody af­ter be­ing de­nied bail fol­low­ing the po­lice’s re­sponse to an in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant, now faces an ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing on Mon­day.

He could be de­ported to Swe­den for po­lice ques­tion­ing re­gard­ing the pos­si­ble rape of the woman and sep­a­rate al­le­ga­tions from an­other Swedish ad­mirer.

But there is a huge ques­tion mark over the ev­i­dence. Many peo­ple be­lieve the Aus­tralian-born whistle­blower is the vic­tim of a dirty tricks cam­paign.

They ar­gue the whole squalid af­fair is a hon­ey­trap.

The story be­gan on Au­gust 11, when As­sange, 39, ar­rived in Stock­holm. He was to speak at a sem­i­nar on “war and the role of the me­dia”. His point of con­tact was a woman whom we shall re­fer to as Sarah (her iden­tity must be pro­tected be­cause of the le­gal pro­ceed­ings).

An at­trac­tive blonde, Sarah was a well-known rad­i­cal fem­i­nist.

Sarah and As­sange had never met. But in a se­ries of in­ter­net and tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions, they agreed that dur­ing his visit he could stay at her apart­ment in Stock­holm.

What hap­pened over the next few days sug­gests that even if the Wik­iLeaks founder is in­no­cent of any charges, he is cer­tainly a man of strong sex­ual ap­petites.

They went out for din­ner and re­turned to her flat for sex, dur­ing which the con­dom broke.

How­ever, the pair con­tin­ued to be friendly and the next day Sarah even threw a party for him.

That same day, As­sange at­tended his sem­i­nar at the Swedish trade union HQ. In the front row was a pretty 20-some­thing whom we shall call Jes­sica. She was the woman from Enkop­ing.

It is be­lieved Jes­sica also met Sarah. Af­ter the meet­ing, she hung around and was still there when As­sange left with friends for lunch. She joined them. Sub­se­quently, one of As­sange’s friends re­called, Jes­sica had been “very keen” to get As­sange’s at­ten­tion.

The at­trac­tion was mu­tual. Af­ter lunch, the pair saw a film. Jes­sica’s ac­count sug­gests that they were “in­ti­mate”. But he had to leave to go to a “cray­fish party”, a usu­ally boozy, Swedish sum­mer event.

They parted and he took a taxi back to Sarah’s flat for the party. You might think it strange that Sarah would throw a party for the man about whom she would later make a com­plaint to po­lice.

This is only one of sev­eral puz­zling flaws in the pros­e­cu­tion case.

A few hours af­ter that party, Sarah ap­par­ently Tweeted: “Sit­ting out­side… nearly freez­ing, with the world’s coolest peo­ple. It’s pretty amaz­ing!” She later tried to erase this mes­sage.

Dur­ing the party, As­sange ap­par­ently phoned Jes­sica and a few hours later she boasted to friends about her flir­ta­tion with him.

On the Mon­day, Jes­sica called As­sange and they ar­ranged to meet in Stock­holm. They agreed to go to her home, but he had no money for a train ticket. So Jes­sica bought both their tick­ets.

She had snagged per­haps the world’s most fa­mous ac­tivist, and af­ter they ar­rived at her apart­ment they had sex.

Ac­cord­ing to her tes­ti­mony, As­sange wore a con­dom. The next morn­ing they made love again. This time he used no pro­tec­tion. Jes­sica re­port­edly said later she was up­set he had re­fused when she asked him to wear a con­dom.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, the pair am­i­ca­bly went out to have break­fast to­gether. He re­turned to Stock­holm, and Jes­sica again paid for his ticket.

What hap­pened next is dif­fi­cult to ex­plain. The prob­a­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion of events is that as a re­sult of a onenight stand, one par­tic­i­pant came to re­gret what had hap­pened.

Jes­sica was wor­ried she could have caught a sex­ual dis­ease, or even be preg­nant. She phoned Sarah and ap­par­ently con­fided to her that she’d had un­pro­tected sex with him.

At that point, Sarah said that she, too, had slept with him. Sarah then re­port­edly phoned an ac­quain­tance of As­sange and said she wanted him to leave her apart­ment.

A few days later, Sarah and Jes­sica went to­gether to a po­lice sta­tion and Jes­sica lodged a com­plaint against As­sange.

Ac­cord­ing to one source, Jes­sica wanted to know if it was pos­si­ble to force As­sange to un­dergo an HIV test. Sarah also gave po­lice an ac­count of what had hap­pened be­tween her­self and As­sange, al­leg­ing he had “de­lib­er­ately” bro­ken the con­dom.

The fe­male in­ter­view­ing of­fi­cer con­cluded both women were vic­tims: that Jes­sica had been raped, and Sarah a vic­tim of mo­lesta­tion.

A duty pros­e­cut­ing at­tor­ney, Maria Kjellstrand, was called. She agreed that As­sange should be sought on sus­pi­cion of rape.

The fol­low­ing day, Sarah was ques­tioned again. De­tec­tives tried to find him in Stock­holm – but to no avail.

By Sun­day, the news had leaked to the press.

The au­thor­i­ties re­alised they had a high-pro­file case on their hands and le­gal pa­pers were rushed to the home of the chief pros­e­cu­tor, who dis­missed the rape charge.

She felt it was just a mi­nor of­fence. But the case was now start­ing to spin out of con­trol.

Re­ject­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of an in­ter­na­tional plot to trap As­sange, Sarah said: “The ac­cu­sa­tions were not set up by the Pen­tagon or any­body else. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for what hap­pened to me and the other girl lies with a man with a twisted view of women, who has a prob­lem ac­cept­ing the word ‘no’.”

The two women then in­structed Claes Borgstrom, a so-called “gen­der lawyer” who is a lead­ing sup­porter of a cam­paign to ex­tend the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of rape. As a re­sult, in Septem­ber the case was re­opened by the au­thor­i­ties, and last month In­ter­pol said As­sange was wanted for “sex crimes”.

Yes­ter­day, his lawyer Mark Stephens said the Swedish war­rant was a “po­lit­i­cal stunt” and that he would fight it on the grounds that it could lead to the Wik­iLeaks founder be­ing handed over to the Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties. Swe­den has an ex­tra­di­tion treaty with the US.

As­sange con­tin­ues to in­sist that he has done noth­ing wrong, and that his sex­ual en­coun­ters with both women were con­sen­sual.

Clearly, he is re­spon­si­ble for an avalanche of po­lit­i­cal leaks. Whether he is also guilty of sex­ual of­fences re­mains to be seen.

But the more one learns about the case, the more one feels that, un­like the bell in Enkop­ing, the al­le­ga­tions sim­ply don’t ring true. – Daily Mail

Sarah gave po­lice her ac­count of what went on, al­leg­ing As­sange had de­lib­er­ately bro­ken the con­dom

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

GO FIG­URE: A fig­urine of Ju­lian As­sange, founder of the Wik­iLeaks web­site in Naples this week.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

FOUR SEX CHARGES FILED: Ju­lian As­sange, founder of Wik­iLeaks.

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