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Julian Assange must face justice and be protected from US imperialism

Julian Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, in a move which has divided opinion amongst those who support the work of the Wikileaks website. Is the move a justified act of self-defence or is it simply a ruse to evade answering the rape charges levelled against him by two Swedish women? Dave Stockton looks at the case

There can be little doubt that the USA wants to silence Assange and Wikileaks and exact a revenge that will deter future whistle blowers.  Wikileaks has exposed US crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay as well as its intimidation and suborning of foreign governments.

Whatever the outcome of any trial in Sweden the probability must be high that Assange will face a US request to extradite him.  This might have to go through a lengthy legal procedure but it’s likely that a court in Sweden, no less than in Britain, would eventually grant this request.

In the US he would face a long prison sentence at the very least. In a US jail he might well suffer the “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of passing information to Wikileaks has endured for over two years according to a UN special rapporteur on torture.

In short if Assange is extradited to Sweden his liberty and even his life could eventually be in danger.

He and his lawyers have made it plain that, if he were given an assurance that he would not be extradited to the USA, he would voluntarily go to Sweden to face investigation and trial. In the absence of such an assurance, by either the Swedish or the British government, seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy was perfectly justified. The suggestion that the British government would violate diplomatic immunity to seize him backfired – provoking worldwide condemnation.

However some of the supporters of Julian Assange have denigrated the two women. George Galloway, John Pilger, Tariq Ali and some of Assange’s lawyers and the Ecuadorian government have suggested the women are witting or unwitting tools of a US and UK plot. To suggest that the charges are “concocted charges”, only (a “breach of sexual etiquette“,  “a honey trap”, or “hilarious”) demonstrates a scandalous lack of concern for woman’s right to say no at any point in sexual relations.

It’s scandalous to hear supposed socialists and progressives trotting out the reactionary argument that, if a person agrees to sexual relations and then changes their mind, then ‘it’s not rape’. It is admirable that Salma Yaqoob, chair of Respect, unequivocally condemned Galloway’s remarks as did Respect candidate Kate Hudson.

On the other hand those on the left like Independent columnist and author of Chavs, Owen Jones, or US Blogger Pham Binh who say the only issue at stake is the two women’s right to see Assange in a Swedish court, are also wrong.

Owen Jones relies on the fact that Sweden “is a democracy with an independent legal system, and it is a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights,” concluding that Ecuador was “wrong to offer Assange political asylum. Assange should go to Sweden to face the allegations.”

The comrades are relying on “lawyers’ arguments” to assert that the due process of bourgeois law means there is no danger of extradition to the US. By defending the alibi of the two imperialist states that claim they can’t (or at least won’t) interfere with the legal process of a sovereign state, they end up obscuring the fact that bourgeois law exists to defend the class which applies it – not to treat all equally.

It is not just a matter what British or Swedish law says: it is a matter of the class nature of law and how it operates whenever major issues of power and property are concerned.

Consider the massive sentences handed out by the courts to “rioters” last summer. Consider the systematic failure of the state to treat police officers, accused of the assault and murder of black people, in the same way it would treat ordinary citizens. Consider the systematic failure of the police and the courts to treat many rape accusations seriously.

Consider too that it is the state that has to carry out court judgements. Consider that using the royal prerogative of pardon the state can set aside court sentences.  Can any Marxist believe that bourgeois justice stands above politics – the politics of the ruling class?

We absolutely support Manning and Assange’s actions in publishing the secret documents that exposed US war crimes around the world.  We don’t believe he should be extradited to face criminal charges for this act, and we demand the immediate release of Bradley Manning.

Does this mean that the right of the women to justice in this case must be set aside or subordinated? Not at all. But all those who care about these rights should address their indignation to the ones responsible for obstructing justice for the two women – the Swedish and UK governments and their transatlantic puppet masters.

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