STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — There's no question yesterday's events surrounding Julian Assange constitute a campaign. The only question is whether it was orchestrated - a conspiracy - or merely a tragedy of a succession of abuses by individuals working independently. Today's revelations tell a comprehensive story.
Police + Prosecutor
Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand was the prosecutor on duty on Friday evening. She's now under investigation by the justice ombudsman. Kjellstrand is the one who issued a top priority arrest warrant for Julian Assange.
Kjellstrand didn't arrive at her crucial decision after due process. She didn't even review the police report. All she did was talk to a member of the police department about it - she never bothered to look at the report.
And on that basis alone she decided to arrest (to incarcerate) a suspect. Without even reviewing the documents in the case.
The prosecutor's office will never reveal the identity of a suspect to the public. And they didn't this time either. But Expressen somehow got wind of the case and rang up the prosecutor's office and asked if Julian Assange had been arrested.
The prosecutor on duty was the same Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand. She verified Julian Assange was in fact being sought ('hunted') for rape. But Expressen already had the whole story - they only asked her to corroborate.
So where did Expressen get the story? Although the legality of even this move by Kjellstrand will now be called into question, the mystery that remains is how Expressen, out of the blue, got wind of it and got the details about it. The prosecutor's office don't normally reveal anything and the police don't either. This is considered 'confidential' information.
So how did Expressen get the details prior to contacting the prosecutor's office? However they did it, it wasn't legal and it certainly wasn't ethical.
Expressen exploited the situation through illicit information. It's not known how they came by this information. The girls themselves may have contacted Expressen - especially if this was, as many suspect, a honey trap - or they may have reported back to the people orchestrating their actions and these people could have contacted Expressen. Or someone else in the police station or the prosecutor's office could have illegally leaked it to Expressen. But that's not considered likely.
It would in any case have to be one of a select few in the police station and involved in the report at that precise time that evening - or at Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand's office - who was made privy to the case and who understood who the girls were talking about. The longer one looks at that scenario, the more preposterous it appears. The consensus is Expressen got the dirt on this one from the outside - from the girls or their runners.
That it should be Expressen who were contacted is no mystery: they're one of two less than credible tabloids, the other one being Aftonbladet. But Julian Assange was already hired on to write a bimonthly column for Aftonbladet. And Expressen had been passed over earlier in the week when Assange held online chat sessions for all the other major newspapers.
Eva Finné came into the office on Saturday. She was the first prosecutor to look at the actual documentation of the complaint: the police report itself, the paperwork. She was the first one to study it. And she dismissed the rape charge and rescinded the arrest warrant after reading the report. The reason she was able to dismiss the charge and the other prosecutor Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand couldn't was that Finné was the first one who'd actually seen the paperwork.
'So wait. They put out a warrant for his arrest and then after putting his name out there as a potential rapist they looked at the evidence and decided it was without merit? Good job there guys.'
To initiate a nationwide hunt for someone based solely on a rape charge related by word of mouth, where no one had even seen the details of the actual report: it's no surprise Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand is now the target of an investigation of her own.
Eva Finné is otherwise known as a very level headed jurist who's been able to rescind other dubious decisions in the legal system by insisting on a high level of responsibility. She's well known for example for her part in cleaning up the Quick/van der Kwast scandal.
It is not permitted in these circumstances to reveal identities in the Swedish media. Nor to in any way help outsiders establish such identities. People are accused of crimes all the time and are sought by the police; their names cannot appear in the media.
The media cannot even identify people with pictures or race description. Laws in other countries are more liberal; in Sweden the laws are very strict.
Every major newspaper in Sweden published the rape story on Saturday - and every paper came out with an editorial by their editor in chief defending the decision to reveal the identity of a rape suspect. It made for rather sleazy reading - they all knew they were in the wrong but they were too horny for the scoop. They too might suffer for those decisions as the case rolls on.
Aftonbladet & Assange
It's well known that Julian Assange received an offer from Aftonbladet for both press protection and work as a columnist. But now Aftonbladet are distancing themselves from Assange - this despite the rape charge being dismissed.
Assange's first article was to have appeared today. Aftonbladet claim he hasn't had time to write it yesterday with all going on. But he could have written the piece at any time - he wouldn't have needed to wait until the last minute. But Aftonbladet's editor in chief lets a bit more slip.
'I regard this information as very serious. We'll postpone our collaboration until we find out what happened.'
Aftonbladet reporters then sum up with this comical mouthful.
'There have been remarkable twists and turns in this story.'
It should also be noted that Aftonbladet also chose to out Assange on Saturday. (That's what friend are for.)
Aftonbladet published an exclusive interview with Assange for their Sunday edition. Excerpts:
AB: Two women claim you molested them. Your comment?
JA: I can't comment. There's no story to consider commenting on.
AB: Did you have sex with them?
JA: They're anonymous in the media. I have no idea who they are.
AB: Have you had sex at all during your stay in Sweden?
JA: That's my business and that of future women in my life.
AB: But isn't it just as well in this situation that you be as frank as possible?
JA: Yes. But I don't want to drag the private lives of others in the dirt without first being able to assess the entire situation. Why did they go to the police? What's behind all this?
I can say this: I have never, not in Sweden or anywhere else, had sex with someone in a way not founded on completely free volition from both sides.
AB: You were under arrest in absentia for several hours. Why didn't you go to the police?
JA: I needed to consult with some people and get a solicitor.
AB: But wouldn't your credibility have profited by your appearing at once?
JA: As I said, I needed to consult with some people. And WikiLeaks posted that I was on my way to the police.
AB: Have you ever been accused of anything similar?
JA: I've been accused of everything possible, but nothing of this caliber. This is surprising.
AB: How did it feel to learn the arrest was rescinded?
JA: Good, obviously.
AB: What do you think of the behaviour of the police and the prosecutor?
JA: No one's asked me for my version of the 'story'.
AB: What's your version of the story?
JA: I want to know more about what I'm accused of before I say anything.
AB: Right, you're still under suspicion of molesting.
JA: Nothing I've done fits that accusation.
AB: Do you think this story will hurt you and WikiLeaks, even though the charge of rape has been dismissed?
JA: Yes, it's very damaging. There have been headlines all over the world that I'm suspected of rape. They won't go away. And I know from experience that the enemies of WikiLeaks will continue to trumpet out things long after they've been proven to be false.
AB: The Internet is abuzz with conspiracy theories right now. What do you think?
JA: I don't know what's behind this. But we've been warned that the Pentagon would try to use dirty tricks to ruin things for us. And I've also been warned to watch out for honey traps.
AB: Have you been caught in a honey trap?
JA: Maybe, maybe not.
AB: Where are you right now?
JA: With a friend in a summer cottage in the north.
AB: How long are you going to stay in Sweden?
JA: I was supposed to have left on Wednesday but it'll be later. But it has nothing to do with this story.
AB: How would you like to summarise this Saturday?
JA: Neither prosecutor nor police have been in contact with me. But I'm happy the Swedish authorities so quickly evaluated the stories of those women and dismissed the charge of rape. Evidently a prosecutor of higher rank took over the investigation and changed the decision to arrest me.
The first prosecutor should be criticised. And even the media who blindly reported the accusations.
Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand has understandably come under severe criticism. It was she who issued a top priority arrest warrant for Julian Assange based on mere hearsay and who later revealed details of the case to the media.
Johann Binninge of Sweden's civil rights organisation RO says the following.
'She wasn't objective. She didn't even question him. She only listened to the plaintiffs. She put Assange under suspicion at the highest possible level without questioning him. If one were to lock up everyone one suspected of a crime, the police wouldn't have time for anything else.'
1. The act of two or more persons, called conspirators, working secretly to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations.
2. (law) An agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future.