It would be fabulous if Julian Assange sued Nick Clegg

You see, if you sue someone, you actually have to turn up in Court to press your case, or else it’ll be struck out. Of course if Wikileaks founder Assange sets foot outside Ecuador’s Embassy, he could find himself extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape. That would be what many people would call a result.

The Huffington Post has details of the spat between Assange and Clegg which began after the Liberal Democrat leader said on his weekly radio phone-in that he thought the sooner Assange were to “face justice in a country where due process is well established” the better.

Assange’s response was to threaten to sue Nick.

He said: “I have instructed my legal team to examine whether the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, should be sued for defamation. Nick Clegg falsely stated to the media yesterday, in comments that were widely reported, that I had been “charged” with an offence. I have not been charged or indicted, in this country or in Sweden as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom clearly states (on its website, no less).

Nick’s office was, shall we say,  lacking in the number of hoots it gave to that:

A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: “Julian Assange is a skilled self-publicist who talks a good game. We’ll see if he follows up on his threats with actual action. If he and his lawyers were really committed to justice, they would go to Sweden to face the very serious allegations being made there.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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53 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 8th Feb '15 - 11:09am

    ‘Fabulous’ Caron? Are you suggesting that you and hundreds of other Lib Dems would chip in to crowd-fund the litigation? 😉

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Feb '15 - 11:45am

    Tony, Liberal Democrats have better things to spend their money on in the next few months. Like getting our fabulous MPs re-elected.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Feb '15 - 11:55am

    Caron,

    I am amazed that you continue to miss the geopolitical dimension of Assange in the Ecuador Embassy.

    Back in 1956 the Archbishop of Budapest fled the Soviet invaders and his in the American embassy. He was only able to get out in 1971! If you cannot see the irony of the police state we have become . . .

  • @Tony Dawson
    Do you imagine the Cleggs are short of cash?

    @Tsar Nicholas
    There is no comparison between a man fleeing torture and persecution and a man seeking to avoid questioning on allegations of sexual offences.

  • Dr Michael Taylor 8th Feb '15 - 12:19pm

    Tsar Nicolas. What a load of bollocks. Loads of Labour’s anti democratic laws have been repealed and Lib dems have repeatedly stopped the snooper’s charter.
    Julian Assange wants to escape being called to account in Sweden.
    Sweden is a democratic country where the rule of law is clearly established. It’s not a police state and if Mr Assange is not guilty of any offense – as he claims – then he should go to Sweden, face down his accusers and prove his innocence.
    But oh no. He can do what he likes and call it free speech – and I admire a lot of what he’s done – but is not prepared to go to Sweden and instead takes refuge in a foreign embassy, because he claims he will be extradited to the USA by Sweden.
    I am staggered that people continue to be taken in by all this. He could have been extradited to the USA from the UK, but never was and I simply don’t believe that the Swedes would take a different view.
    My advice to Mr Assange, put up or shut up!

  • Tony Dawson 8th Feb '15 - 12:32pm

    The problem seems to be that he has not been charged but, if he were charged in Sweden, the first thing he would hear of it would be when he was being arrested by UK cops under a European Arrest Warrant whisking him off to Sweden where he would then get a US extradition warrant on a matter where the UK would not really wish him to be – and he’d be in a US jail very quickly being grilled by the CIA as only they know how to do. Which they would deny for 20 years and then say “but we really needed to” when it was proven what they were up to.

    Surely, the sensible thing is for the UK to negotiate with Sweden a cast-iron promise of non-extradition of this man to the US. Maybe the Ecuadorian government, if confronted with something like that which they believed would then kick him out of the embassy?

  • Didn’t unrepentant child rapist Roman Polanski manage to sue for libel without stepping foot in the UK for fear of extradition to the US if he stepped foot on UK soil? Seems likes there’s precedent for letting the rich avoid prosecution for rape while allowing them to use our libel system.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Feb '15 - 12:56pm

    Dr Michael Taylor

    So you are saying that I imagined that the Archbishop of Budapest had to take refuge in the American Embassy in 1965-71?

    I bet the Soviets had loads of superficially plausible legal reasons for doing so then.

  • Michael Taylor
    There were, of course, fairly well-known contacts between Sweden and the USA on the subject of Assange, and I hardly think Assange’s clear worries on the extradition front were ill-founded, as you suggest. There were some clear worries that the complainants were “encouraged” to complain about his sexual behaviour. So, don’t write it off as “b*llocks” quite so quickly. I think the spat between you and Tsar Nicolas is rather contrived. Few countries, particularly nowadays are either entirely police states, or entirely the opposite. Certainly the US and Britain have aspects of our sec*rity behaviour which would qualify. Surely you would both accept that the Americans and Brits have been authoritarian in the extreme in their rhetoric and actions regarding Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Miranda etc. You may well be right about Ecuador also having police state aspects about their systems and enforcers, but in this case Assange trusts that country to respect his rights to protection rather than either Sweden, or dispiritingly, the UK. The trumped up charge, of course, has a (dis)honourable history in all manner of police states.

    Jack
    A comparison between Roman Polanski and Julian Assange regarding their sexual behaviour linked to their travel plans hardly seems appropriate.

  • Samuel Griffiths 8th Feb '15 - 1:14pm

    You know the world is a dark place for liberalism when even the Liberal Democrat message boards are no longer Assange-friendly. Dark days indeed.

  • @Samuel Griffiths
    “You know the world is a dark place for liberalism when even the Liberal Democrat message boards are no longer Assange-friendly.”

    Much darker is the wish of some liberals to give Assange immunity from questioning on sexual assault charges, as a reward for being a thorn in the side of the US government. Assange’s supporters are morally vacuous.

  • Never forget that Assange is where he is because he’s trying to avoid being questioned, and possibly charged, on an allegation of rape.

    The only law enforcement request made against him prior to his claim of asylum was that.

    Nothing else, no matter what he claims.

    The irony is that had he been tried and convicted, his sentence would probably be over by now.

  • If the US wanted to extradite Assange they could do so from the UK which has a notoriously one-sided extradition treaty with the US.

  • All these posters who think JA should ‘man up’ and go to Sweden to face the music: would they take the risk of extradition to the US? Have they not read what happened in Guantanamo and other dark sites? That Sweden will not guarantee no extradition tells me that they would allow it. Why don’t they come to London and interview him here? It’s the obvious solution, for which there is a precedent. They won’t because THEY DON’T WANT THE MATTER RESOLVED. If you delve just slightly below the surface you will see that JA is innocent; interviewing him here might just prove that – a risk the US can’t take. Why doesn’t the UK government threaten to release him if the Swedes don’t interview him here? Probably on instruction from the US. They cannot risk him being found innocent.

  • Dr Michael Taylor 8th Feb '15 - 4:15pm

    Tsar Nicolas. I was saying your comments about the UK being a police state were bollocks. And they are

  • Dr Michael Taylor 8th Feb '15 - 4:17pm

    Tony Dawson. I never thought you were a conspiracy theorist. If the US wanted to have Assange they could have applied when the UK had him in custody.
    I agree with Hywel, not something I often do.

  • Tony Greaves 8th Feb '15 - 6:20pm

    The problem is, Caron, that a lot of people who ought to be voting for us would be on Assange’s side.

    Tony

  • Are you people who are saying that he should go to Sweden saying there is not a possibility of a trumped up charge? The evidence seems to point to that – I am not sure how g, for example can be so certain that nothing else is involved. There seems to be a huge and unjustified amount of trust being invested in countries simply because they are on the face of it, open and democratic. Of course he should face arrest and likely charges if he is guilty, but I would suggest the likelihood is that this just a cover by the authorities. I fail to see why people are suggesting this to be a “conspiracy theory”.

  • @Martin
    “All these posters who think JA should ‘man up’ and go to Sweden to face the music: would they take the risk of extradition to the US?”

    Please explain then why Assange was living in a country (i.e. here) with a notoriously keen extradition treaty with the US. Someone mentioned Roman Polanski – there is a good reason why Polanski lives in France and will not visit the UK.

    “That Sweden will not guarantee no extradition tells me that they would allow it.”

    This point has also been demolished by several other posters. Are you not reading the other posts?

  • Alex Sabine 8th Feb '15 - 7:05pm

    @ Tony
    “The problem is, Caron, that a lot of people who ought to be voting for us would be on Assange’s side.”

    Well, if you are judged by the quality of your enemies then Assange and his band of followers/apologists aren’t bad ones for Clegg to have, I’d say. I like the no-nonsense response from his spokesman cited by Caron.

  • @Marin: ” If you delve just slightly below the surface you will see that JA is innocent”
    @Tim13: “Are you people who are saying that he should go to Sweden saying there is not a possibility of a trumped up charge? The evidence seems to point to that”

    When it’s so easy to get to the truth just sitting at home surfing the web, you have to wonder why we bother with an expensive judicial system at all.

  • “Much darker is the wish of some liberals to give Assange immunity from questioning on sexual assault charges, as a reward for being a thorn in the side of the US government. Assange’s supporters are morally vacuous.”

    In this modern age we have these things called telephones and computers. For example, you are more than welcome to ask questions about my comment should you wish. Although the internet can be quite annonymous, we all know where Assange is, thus should they wish to question him about these ‘allegations’ of rape, they can call 020 7584 1367 or alternatively interview him via video link (possibly even skype).

  • @Pete
    Colin has already cleared up this point (3:02pm). The Swedish system is rather different to ours, and the British courts rejected Assange’s claims that he is only wanted for questioning. The High Court concluded that the stage reached in the Swedish investigation is more akin to that of a suspect being charged here in the UK, which is why they approved the extradition in the first place.

    See :-

    https://storify.com/anyapalmer/why-doesn-t-sweden-interview-assange-in-london

  • @ Stuart
    Please please please read this article by a highly reputable journo:.http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-siege-of-julian-assange-is-a-farce-a-special-investigation. I would be very surprised if you didn’t reach the same conclusion as I did. And by the way, Julian Assange IS innocent, at least until he’s proven guilty. Some people tend to forget that. And of course we need a judicial system and I believe if and when this comes to court it will be thrown out. Just the photograph of one of the ‘victims’ , beaming as she lines up with JA and others in a restaurant where they are all having dinner, is surely strong evidence that there is no case to answer.

  • @stuart
    I think the Americans were probably building their case when JA outsmarted them and gained political asylum. As for the ‘inability’ of the Swedes to guarantee no extradition, I cannot believe that there is no way round this. And why don’t the Swedes interview him in the UK anyway. If they wanted to get to the bottom of this, that seems an obvious place to start.

  • @Tim13: I wasn’t comparing unrepentant child rapist Roman Polanski’s actions to Julian Assange; it’s clear that the crimes Julian is accused of are not quite as bad as those of Polanski. My point is that is already precedent of people using the UK libel system whilst not in the country to avoid extradition.

  • @Martin: “And by the way, Julian Assange IS innocent, at least until he’s proven guilty. Some people tend to forget that”

    No, he should be legally treated as innocent until proven guilty; this is not at all the same thing as BEING innocent until he is proven guilty in a court of law. He is guilt, or innocent, of the crimes he is accused of right now and will be just as guilty or innocent when he eventually gets to trial (as I believe he likely will). We are, of course, all free to make a personal judgement on whether a man who is willing to spend years hiding in a small room in an embassy rather than face trial for the crimes of which is accused on utterly spurious grounds is more likely to be guilty or innocent.

  • @ Jack
    But don’t you see, he is NOT worried about the Swedes, he (rightly in my mind) is worried about the Americans. He has publicly stated if the Swedes guarantee no extradition, he will happily go to Sweden to face trial. He has said he will willingly be questioned by them in the UK. I think he is desperate to prove his innocence, but the stakes are much too high. I believe that given the chance, the Swedes would hand him over to the Americans in a heartbeat. Would you take the risk?

  • “I believe that given the chance, the Swedes would hand him over to the Americans in a heartbeat. ”

    Why do you beleive that this is inherently more likely in Sweden than in the UK? Extradition is not just a case of “handing someone over” and would at the very least be governed by the ECHR.

    Does Sweden have an extradition arrangement with the US that is more supportive of a US request than the UK/US arrangement has proven to be in practice.

  • Tsar Nicolas 9th Feb '15 - 5:17am

    Mr Michael Taylor

    “Britain is not a police state.”

    Police in Wiltshire rare looking for people who may have purchased Charlie Hebdo magazine.

    http://21stcenturywire.com/2015/02/08/free-speech-british-police-hunt-down-buyers-of-charlie-hebdo/

  • No one has yet answered my point re the possible trumping up/ encouragement of complaints of charges, except to say that there are “conspiracy theories” or that we can make judgments “by surfing the net” rather than the judicial process. It seems to me that those, from Caron’s article down, who wish to see him face justice in Sweden without guarantees of no further action to remove him to the US, are actually hiding (not very well, in several cases) a generalised anti-Assange agenda (for instance, Alex Sabine at 7.05pm last night), rather than recognising that people such as him who whistle blow internationally are very valuable members of the international community. I take on board Colin’s points about the Swedish constitution – rather coincidental – or perhaps not – that their constitution was written at a similar time to the US Declaration of Independence. I know that Sweden has achieved many “goods” for society over many years. That does NOT mean that in any country there are not abuses, and this would apply equally to the US, or most certainly, to the UK.

  • @ jack
    I think you’re splitting hairs. I believe the accepted wisdom is that, “in the eyes of the law, a man is innocent until proven guilty”. If you want to argue that it really means that a man is merely ‘treated as being innocent’ until proven guilty, as far as I’m concerned it’s the same thing.

  • @colin
    Wow! You were burning the midnight oil! I think the Americans want JA SO BADLY, he could be whisked off there on an ‘act now, ask questions later’ basis. Terrible things happen in the world. Governments break the law with impunity and are rarely held to account. Remember, this is all about American war crimes being revealed. Any retribution for this? Anyone held to account? The only people who are suffering from the revelations of these war crimes are those who revealed them. I understand from your long quotation (which I read right through) that there are theoretical safeguards but in a high-stakes case like this, I personally wouldn’t risk my life on them. Call me paranoid, I’m not even sure the Swedes would stick to their word even if they DID promise no extradition. Let’s leave it there.

  • Tsar Nicolas 9th Feb '15 - 9:23am

    Tim13 9th Feb ’15 – 8:55am

    “No one has yet answered my point re the possible trumping up/ encouragement of complaints of charges, except to say that there are “conspiracy theories””

    There are no, and never have been, in the entire history of the human race any conspiracies at all, and to say that we have a law against conspiracy is a conspiracy theory.

  • Julian Tisi 9th Feb '15 - 9:41am

    Tony Dawson8th Feb ’15 – 12:32pm
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Despite the 3 reasons given above by Colin, there is a very real likelihood that once in Sweden he will find himself on a plane to the US. There are all sorts of ways out of this mess, but Sweden have to move. For example, why can’t they provide an assurance that they won’t extradite him further? Or try him in this country? Why has he not been charged? If there really is no hiden motive and they really only want to make him face justice for rape, then why won’t Sweden simply provide those assurances? Of course if he has raped someone, then of course everyone wants Julian Assange to face justice. But even Julian Assange himself has said he is willing to face these accusations in court.

    Sadly for some people in this party – once someone has been accused of rape then all thoughts of innocent until proven guilty go out of the window.

  • If Clegg made a error of fact in stating that Assange had been charged then he should admit it and apologise. My feeling is that Nick’s and Caron’s stance on this matter will lose more Lib Dem votes than it gains.

  • @Martin: “But don’t you see, he is NOT worried about the Swedes, he (rightly in my mind) is worried about the Americans. He has publicly stated if the Swedes guarantee no extradition, he will happily go to Sweden to face trial. He has said he will willingly be questioned by them in the UK.”

    That would be the “utterly spurious grounds” I referred to. The idea that he is more likely to be extradited from Sweden than he was from the UK is nonsense as has been widely discussed already in this thread.

  • @Tim13: “It seems to me that those, from Caron’s article down, who wish to see him face justice in Sweden without guarantees of no further action to remove him to the US, are actually hiding (not very well, in several cases) a generalised anti-Assange agenda (for instance, Alex Sabine at 7.05pm last night), rather than recognising that people such as him who whistle blow internationally are very valuable members of the international community.”

    I agree that WikiLeaks has carried out an important role in revealing bad behaviour by countries and corporations.I do not see what that has remotely to do with how we should react to someone trying to avoid being tried for rape in a first world country with a well respected justice system. Julian Assange can both have performed important services through his part in whistle blowing and be guilty of terrible crimes.

  • Tim Oliver

    “The fear that his supporters have, of course, is that Mr Assange is wanted for something other than his glorious stand for whatever it is they say he stands for, and instead may be a rather distasteful man who has done some good turn in the past.”

    Poor strawman. Many people consider him to be a distasteful and creepy egomaniac but have concerns about the circumstances of this episode.

    Colin

    Your argument (8th Feb ’15 – 9:44pm) about the constitutional procedure in Sweden would apply if the US extradition treaty was part of the Swedish constitution. Infact it will be a treaty ratified by their legislator, therefore there will be ways of making arrangements provided they were don in advance of his entering the country. The point is that if you start making “a-la carte” legal arrangements for high profile figures you set a problematic precedent and further feed an egomaniacs inflated image of himself. The realist is that they could do something but won’t, probably not due to any conspiracy but due to the fact he is not worth it.

    It is very likely that it would be very hard to legally extradite him form Sweden to the US and many people would probably recognise this but equally they would also consider if they would take the risk given the US Government’s response to whistle blowers.

    Jack

    “he should be legally treated as innocent until proven guilty”

    The phrase you are looking for is that defendants are “presumed innocent until proven guilty”

    More worrying here is there seems to be certain people who are presuming guilt and hence getting a rise out of others. I do find it worrying when self-described ‘liberals’ start to presume guilt on the basis that the subject is an objectionable character.

  • @ Jack
    Interesting….War crimes, slaughter of civilians, torture etc, these in your words are merely ‘bad behaviour’ , yet Julian Assange could be guilty of “terrible crimes”. No doubt about your impartiality then.

  • Alex Sabine 9th Feb '15 - 3:34pm

    @ Tim13
    I don’t have a “generalised anti-Assange agenda”, not least because I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. Certainly, I have formed an impression that, as Psi puts it, Assange is “a distasteful and creepy egomaniac”. But finding him an objectionable character should not, of course, have any bearing on the judicial process or – as Psi says – on the presumption of innocence. My comment was in response to Tony’s about the politics of Nick Clegg’s spat with Assange.

  • @Martin “Interesting….War crimes, slaughter of civilians, torture etc, these in your words are merely ‘bad behaviour’ , yet Julian Assange could be guilty of “terrible crimes”. No doubt about your impartiality then.”

    When in doubt, go the old ad hominem, hey?

  • @Martin
    “Please please please read this article by a highly reputable journo:”

    Within the first paragraph he makes statements which are highly misleading and it’s downhill from there. Mostly he just takes up 3,000 words saying “any enemy of America is a friend of mine”.

    “Just the photograph of one of the ‘victims’ , beaming as she lines up with JA and others in a restaurant where they are all having dinner, is surely strong evidence that there is no case to answer.”

    Right – who needs courts when we have Google Image Search?

    Anna Troberg is the leader of the Swedish Pirate Party. She was a friend and huge supporter of Assange. In fact, some pro-Assange websites suggest that Troberg will be one of the star witnesses for the defence in the (unlikely) event Assange ever faces a court. She hasn’t just seen the photograph you refer to; she actually appears in it . Yet strangely, she seems a good deal less convinced of Assange’s innocence than you are :-

    http://www.annatroberg.se/2012/08/16/10745/

    I’d urge you to read the article and Troberg’s below-the-line comments. She says some bad things about Assange, some good things, but in the final analysis gives some excellent reasons why he should return to Sweden. She finds the idea that he would be extradited from Sweden to the US pretty implausible – and would lead the fight against any attempt for that to happen. But the most sensible thing she says is this :-

    “I do not know what happened that weekend in Stockholm. Others have proclaimed their more or less qualified speculations about what happened, but I will not pretend to know something that I can not possibly know. I will only write about what I do know.”

    Good advice for us all I think.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Feb '15 - 10:48pm

    “Just the photograph of one of the ‘victims’ , beaming as she lines up with JA and others in a restaurant where they are all having dinner, is surely strong evidence that there is no case to answer.”

    So presumably you also believe that Jimmy Savile could not possibly have abused the children who appear alongside him smiling in countless photographs?

  • Stuart. Thanks for that link. Anna Troberg comes across as very sensible and level-headed, particularly the following: :

    “Uncertainty feeds off the abuse of power. If we had politicians that were not caught red handed time and time again, maybe we would believe them when they say that Assange is not the victim of a conspiracy because of his work with Wikileaks. If Assange had lived up to his own high ideals, maybe we could believe him when he stubbornly claims he is subjected to a conspiracy instead of taking a time out and save Wikileaks from the otherwise inevitable guilt by association. Now we can trust no-one.”

  • Mark Littlewood 14th Feb '15 - 1:19pm

    Is it true that you actually need to turn up in a court, in person, to press a case for defamation?

    Is Caron right when she says “You see, if you sue someone, you actually have to turn up in Court to press your case, or else it’ll be struck out”

    I’d be very surprised if this was the case. If it is, then it shouldn’t be.

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