Christine Assange: An Interview with the Mother of Wikileaks




Julian Assange, founder of the beleaguered Wikileaks, has been served an extradition notice by Scotland Yard to appear at Belgravia police station at 11.30am this morning. With the extradition process to facilitate his ejection from the United Kingdom already begun, Julian is seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. According to the BBC Julian will “almost certainly not” be attending the summons on the basis that “asylum law both internationally and domestically takes precedence over extradition law.”

On a visit to Australia, Urban Times spoke to Christine Assange about her son.

Interview with Christine Assange

Let me give you some facts, because I like to base my opinion on facts.

So when was the last time you spoke to Julian?

About 4 days ago while he was inside the embassy in London.

And how were his spirits?

Good, regardless of how this turns out they’ve been incredibly hospitable. They’re warm, very genuine people. I think that he’s feeling more relaxed because he’s around good people. Obviously it’s a very worrying time for him, but at least for the moment while he’s at that embassy, for however long it lasts, he is in good hands I believe.

Christine Assange

What do you think made Julian choose Ecuador, a third world country, for asylum?

I suppose it’s how you define a third world country. Maybe they don’t have a lot of money but they’re also a country that doesn’t believe in the death penalty, unlike the USA. Perhaps the USA would be heading towards the category that we would consider third world repression.

The US bi-lateral treaty with Ecuador does not permit extradition for political offenses so I think that’s the reason. They’re not as close allies of the US, unlike Australia, the UK and Sweden. Julian also did an interview with the President of Ecuador in the World Tomorrow show, and I believe he got on with him quite well. The President understands that he’s a journalist and he’s being persecuted for telling the truth.

And what do you think of the allegations of sexual assault in Sweden?

Let me give you some facts, because I like to base my opinion on facts. For a start, Julian has never had sexual allegations made against him before this, ever in his life, and suddenly he gets two, between releasing Collateral Murder and the Afghan War Diaries and Cablegate, all of which the Americans knew were coming.

…he’s a journalist and he’s being persecuted for telling the truth

Secondly, neither women alleged that he raped them, it was the police that alleged that. Thirdly, rape can be alleged in Sweden for consensual, non-violent sex and this is what the two women said the sex with Julian was. Woman SW was taken to a police station further away than necessary by Woman AA, and was interrogated by Woman AA’s friend after hours. She was not video taped or audio taped in contravention of Swedish police procedure. She had stated that she felt violated by the police, and she was so upset that they were going to allege rape against Julian that she didn’t finish her interview, and didn’t sign her statements – which remain unsigned. Her text to friends stated that she was half asleep. The European arrest Warrant said that she was fully asleep so there’s been an alteration there.

Within 24 hours the chief prosecutor of Stockholm, Eva Finné, said that there was absolutely no basis to the rape allegations and the allegations were dropped. Then about 7-10 days later Woman AA went with a politician lawyer, Claes Borgström, to appeal the dropping of the rape allegations. Claes Borgström is a well-known politician lawyer that runs the firm Thomas Bodström. Their main clients are people who are rape complainants  and this is how they derive their money. They have been heavily involved, for the last 10 years, in widening the definition of rape. It goes without saying that this means there’s more clients.

The police woman who interrogated Woman SW and both the lawyers in this firm, representing the women, are all members of the same political party: the Social Democrats. They all stood together for elections in Sweden one month after the sex allegations, with one of the political platforms being widening the definition of rape to include consensual sex. The emails, which were released earlier this year, for the Global Intelligence company Stratfor, stated that they knew that the allegations were bogus and that it was just a case of a prosecutor wanting to make a name for herself.

[Woman SW]had stated that she felt violated by the police, and she was so upset that they were going to allege rape against Julian that she didn’t finish her interview and didn’t sign her statements – which remain unsigned.

Woman AA and the lawyer, Claes Borgström, shopped around and found a prosecutor in Sweden, Marianne Ny, well-known for having very radical feminist viewpoints on sexual offenses. She actually believes in locking all men up before trial, even if they’re innocent. They appealed the dropping of the rape allegations to Marianne Ny, the prosecutor, and they did not inform Julian of the appeal so he could not make any submissions. In bringing this new evidence to get this up again, Woman AA submitted a condom, which she said Julian deliberately tore during sex, and that was going to be another rape allegation. In fact, the condom didn’t have any DNA from Julian or Woman AA and it wasn’t torn deliberately. Nevertheless, Ny upheld the appeal and when Julian found out about it he offered himself for questioning. She refused to question him, giving all kinds of reasons to get out of it, while pumping into the newspapers copies of the women’s interviews, even though they’d not been recorded accurately. That was also illegal.

Portrait of Julian Assange in graffiti style (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, unsuccessful in obtaining an interview with the prosecutor, Julian had business to attend to in releasing Cablegate and had to meet with media partners abroad. Marion Knight gave him permission to leave and he went to do his business. He found out that she now wanted to do an interview with him as soon as he’d left the country. He offered to fly back in on the 9th and 10th of October and she refused saying that it was a weekend, he offered to fly back on the 11th October, she refused saying it was too far away. He offered to be interviewed by the normal protocol in these situations when someone is in another country; this is called the Mutual Legal Assistance Protocol, which both Sweden and the UK are signatories to, which means Marianne Ny could have interviewed Julian by phone, Skype or video link. She refused. Then she issued the European response saying that he’d fled the country and refused to be questioned, which was untrue, and since he’s been under house arrest he asked if she’d interview him at Scotland Yard or the Swedish embassy and she refused all that. I asked Julian why it kept on going this way and he said, “It’s simple Mum, it’s a holding case for US extradition. If she interviews me she’s either got to charge me or drop the case and she’s got no evidence to charge me on.”

Why did you call the Swedish, Australian and British governments sycophants of the US?

“It’s simple Mum, it’s a holding case for US extradition. If she interviews me she’s either got to charge me or drop the case and she’s got no evidence to charge me on.”

Because they’ve got all the facts of this case and they are not acting in the way that they should be. They should be throwing this out because there have been many breaches of police procedure. European Arrest Warrant is not supposed to be used for questioning. The UK courts should throw it out on those grounds alone. The Australian government have refused to support Julian. Politicians have been defaming Julian in the media with factual inaccuracies. Our own Attorney General was telling our national broadcaster, only a couple of weeks ago, that Julian had fled Sweden when she had the facts – in Parliament, submitted on 2nd March 2011 – that he didn’t. The Foreign Minister is saying that all due process is being followed in Sweden, when it isn’t. The UK courts have done something unthinkable, which is to introduce new evidence into an appeal, which is unheard of, so that they can deny Julian’s appeal. Suffice to say that none of their actions would display that they’re interested in seeing justice, or following normal protocol, or upholding Julian’s human rights, and all the other indicators suggest that they’re collaborating with the US overtly or covertly for him to go to Sweden. It’s much easier for him to be extradited under the Swedish bi-lateral treaty with the US.

What do you think of the Australian government’s dealing?

From day one, Julia Gillard was defaming Julian in the media and speaking inaccurately. She said that what Wikileaks did was illegal, which is not true. Even the American Treasury has stated that what Julian was doing is not illegal enough for them to blacklist him. Julia Gillard has refused to withdraw those comments even though our own Federal Police has stated that what he’s done is not illegal. She has continued to defame Julian for the last 18 months in the media, saying that he’s reckless and that what he’s doing is illegal, immoral and irresponsible. Interestingly, the world ‘reckless’ is the identical lingo the Americans are using.

They are misleading the Australian people in saying they don’t believe that there’s a US extradition warrant but their own embassy sent a cable back to Australia saying that the investigation into Wikileaks was unprecedented in scale and nature. The only assistance Julian has received is that the Department of Foreign Affairs staff turn up at the hearings, although they don’t even talk to Julian or acknowledge his presence, give him feedback, offer him any help. There were 7 specific requests that Julian asked of them and they denied all 7.  For example, one of them: the Australian government asked if they could grant him bail if they extradite to Sweden. What people don’t know is that uncharged and unquestioned he would be put straight into prison so they would do absolutely nothing for him. They’ve also altered the extradition in Australia recently so it makes it much easier for the US to extradite people and waters down the protection of political offense and death penalty.

And what of the Greens who have offered him support?

They have been fabulous, especially Senator Scott Ludlam. I think he was chosen as the main man to do the job. He’s been out informing the public about what’s going on. He’s been in Sweden and visited Julian a numbers of times in the UK. He’s been on public forums with me. They’ve made a motion in the Senate to protect Julian from Temporary Surrender and the Labour and Liberal party formed a coalition on that vote and voted it down. They won’t even protect him from a fast-track rendition.

Portrait of Julian Assange in digital style

Has there been any support from governments other than Ecuador?

Not that I’m aware. Not governments, but people around the world, from all countries. Many top lawyers, judges, army personnel, civil rights people and journalists have been supporting Julian. He’s very grateful for that. In 2010, Julian was honoured with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence by people who had experience of war and know that the truth is often not told in war. These people were high-ranking senior military and intelligence personnel; ex-CIA officers. He won the award unanimously. We’ve also got many army personnel that support Julian. This was a bit surprising to me actually. Many migrants support Julian in our country because they’ve come from repressive regimes and we’re very grateful that Wikileaks has been able to expose the repression and exploitation by other countries. The US hasn’t come up looking good in that respect. I guess that’s why they want to silence him. They don’t want the world knowing what they’re doing behind closed doors.

As you mentioned before, the investigation into Wikileaks is bigger in scale than that of Bin Laden so do you think the Ecuadorian government will withstand such pressure from the US?

I don’t know, I hope so. What I suppose we have to do is support Ecuador. The Americans have already began threatening imposing trade sanctions, the Washington Post wrote an article about it a couple of days ago. They were going to be threatening 400,000 Ecuadorian jobs, but this is the way that the US government, particularly under Obama, has been operating. It’s a global bully and I think all countries need to stand up and protect Ecuador and Julian who is, after all, a multi-award winning journalist who runs a legitimate media outlet reporting the real news of exploitation and corruption in the world. This is something all our governments should stand up for but whether they will or not remains to be seen. As we’re finding out there are a lot of corrupt governments around but if they don’t stand up then we’re asking the people to put pressure on their governments to stand up and support Ecuador.

It’s a great big David and Goliath situation. You have Goliath, America, who’s bullying and threatening everybody and all the Davids can do is to join together so that we’re bigger and more powerful then that one big bully.

Do you feel there is any political pressure on you personally as the mother of such a prominent and controversial figure?

Let’s put it this way. I never used to have problems with emails or phones and now I have constant problems with emails and phones and I know that people working with Wikileaks are also having such problems. That’s the extent of it so far but I know other people who have been pressured. Some people have been asked to keep quiet.

What next if Ecuador does grant Julian asylum?

I’ve got no idea how it all works. There appears to be some problem between getting him from the embassy to the plane althought I don’t know the official provision. Some people have stayed in embassies for 15 years, not being able to leave it. I don’t know what will happen although I can’t see the Ecuadorian government doing the ‘wrong’ thing by him by throwing him out into the street to the police who are salivating like dogs outside waiting to grab him. I don’t know if they will give him asylum either. I know the Ecuadorian people are keen to have him. Unfortunately, it’s a great big David and Goliath situation. You have Goliath, America, who’s bullying and threatening everybody and all the Davids can do is to join together so that we’re bigger and more powerful then that one big bully.

Do you think Julian’s trial has a chance in Sweden or the United States?

Not a hope. Besides the issues that I was talking about regarding evidence, at some point the Swedish justice system should have stepped in and said, “Hang on. There’s something not right with this prosecutor.” The Chief Advisor to the current Prime Minister is none other than Karl Rove, a disgraced political advisor to George Bush. The reason he was disgraced is because he used to run vicious smear campaigns against the opposition and he had to leave the country in 2007.

The other thing is that Sweden is very close to the US; they’re a large arms supplier to them and they were the number one supplier during the Iraq War. They have strong economic ties, and are similar politically. They have a different political system to us. For instance, Julian would be put into jail in the remand prison with indefinite detention without questioning and without charge. If they decide to prosecute him, and we don’t even know when that would be, it could be a long time, they are only giving his evidence against him 2 weeks before. Then he would undergo a secret trial; no media or servers. They have 4 judges and only 1 is trained, the other 3 are appointed by political parties.

We know that Hilary Clinton, in the State Department, payed a visit to Sweden in the week of Julian’s Supreme Court decision where it went against him to be extradited. They hadn’t visited Sweden on a State Department visit since the 1970’s. And so on it goes…

With so much coverage of his personal and public life, is it hard to reconcile his media persona with the man that you know as your son?

English: Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-B...Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a very good point. Julian is an award-winning editor-in-chief of an online newspaper. How many other chief editors do you know that have gone through this level of public scrutiny regarding their personal lives? Do we know about the personal lives of the chief editors of the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian? The reason they’re doing that is because Wikileaks is a legal organisation. It has not broken any laws, contrary to what the media says, it is legal; you would know from the First Amendment: to publish classified documents. People do it all the time. The other thing is that Wikileaks has not had one government anywhere in the world be able to allege that any of those documents were not authentic, they’d love them to be not authentic but they are. Wikileaks has an impeccable record for publishing the truth. The other thing is that not one person has lost their life or been hurt physically as a result of Wikileaks’ publications because they do publish responsibly. They have a process whereby they redact the material. Most of the stuff that was published was from the past. The US government has refused to cooperate in redactions so they’re advocating their responsibility to any people that may be involved. Wikileaks asked them to help redact notes and they refused. So they’ve not behaved responsibly.

Having been unable to pin anything criminal or amoral on Wikileaks, the only option they have is to cut off their funding, which they’ve done illegally. They’ve advocated a Mastercard, Paypal, Western Union, Bank of America, Visa blockade; cutting off 95% of Wikileaks’ funding which came from voluntary donations, like Greenpeace would have for example. They’ve also gone around smearing Julian, the editor-in-chief’s name. None of these people have done any psychological tests on Julian, they’re not qualified, so they’ve chosen to smear him, and me. They’ve made up and exaggerated stories about his background. No one will print the facts of that Swedish extradition process, they just do commentary upon commentary.

Thank you for speaking to us at Urban Times.

With thanks to Alexander Phillips, Corin Faife and Jaquan Hamilton for additional research.

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