2012-08-05 10:00 – Rafik Saley and Okoth Osewe
In the recent past, South Africa has been silent on the case of Australian activist and journalist Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, although media freedom is of paramount importance to South Africans.
Given the threat to Assange’s life if he gets repatriated to the US, our submission is that the South African government should offer him political asylum.
Since the Assange case began, Sweden has played a very complicit role in his persecution.
This is not strange because Sweden has a history of double standards as exemplified in the cases of three Swedish journalists – Dawit Isaak, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye – currently jailed in Africa.
Persson and Schibbye have admitted to entering Ethiopia illegally and have been duly sentenced.
Assange’s case has received negative publicity, focusing mainly on the sex crime allegations. That was after the right-wing Expressen newspaper arbitrarily exposed Assange’s identity.
The Swedish foreign affairs minister Carl Bildt has business interests in the horn of Africa but there hasn’t been equal media bashing of him compared to Assange. In fact, the hypocrisy of the Swedish government in Assange’s case became manifestly clear this week.
On Tuesday, the Swedish Prosecution Authority turned down an offer by the Ecuadorian embassy in London to questionAssange at the embassy where he has sought refuge. Since he moved to the UK, the authority has refused Assange the interview he has been requesting for the past 18 months.
We are 100% sure that the charges levelled against him are politically motivated and that Assange is correct in declining to travel to Sweden without diplomatic guarantees that he will not be extradited to the US.
Most importantly, Sweden has a so-called “temporary surrender” extradition agreement with the US which implies that Assange can, at the behest of the US government, be repatriated to the US without a single judicial review. He can then technically be returned to Sweden after 20 years to answer the bogus sex crime allegations.
At this juncture, it is important that more prominent personalities support Assange.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire has voiced her support and we call upon South Africa’s laureates to do the same.
» Saley is general secretary of the African Committee for Development in Stockholm, Sweden
» Osewe writes for Kenya Stockholm Blog
– City Press