Time to Make a Deal for Time Served for Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a UN report as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on Friday. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a UN report as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on Friday. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

New Orleans    Remember Julian Assange, the founder and director of Wikileaks that back in the day, you know before Edward Snowden, released a Pandora’s Box of leaked information that brought down governments and exposed some of the nasty little secrets and weird dealings of so-called diplomacy? Well, the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared that Assange has been arbitrarily detained by the actions of the British and Swedish government over sexual assault allegations back in the day as well. Assange is now better known for having been an asylum seeker holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, than he is for his Wikileaks’ work.

As organizing dictum always holds, you live by the press, you die by the press. Assange a master media mini-mogul in his own right had smartly declared the day before the UN report release that if the Working Group said he was NOT arbitrarily detained, then he would present himself to the British and be done with it. I imagine this was a cheap thrill of a headline since anyone who can mastermind releasing millions of pages of documents outlining the secret activity of governments around the world, certainly would have known ahead of time exactly what the report was going to say. Come on, man!

And, the British and Swedish governments didn’t yawn at the report, finding Assange aggrieved and wrongly restricted, as much as spit at the report and tossed it towards the garbage bin. Both stories were web-lines more than head-lines and virtually buried as footnotes to the news, rather than news itself.

The report actually was pretty clear that the Swedish prosecutors had botched the mess badly. There is still no clear allegation of a crime and in most countries even the accusation would not have necessarily been an offense given the largely consensual nature of the experience according to reports. I’m not sure there’s even a felony charge attached to this embarrassing and shameful mess. The problem, if you recall, is that the Swedes want to question Assange, and stubbornly refused to do so except on their own soil. Assange, convinced he is still on the Most Wanted List in the US, has argued that he would be extradited to the US if he went to Sweden, and round and round the merry-go-round goes. The UN group was clear that this is all past the pale, no matter what anyone’s opinion of Assange might be, and, essentially argue, let’s get on with it!

The press clearly doesn’t think this is news. The governments are just letting the clock run out on Assange until the Ecuadorians get tired of having him as a houseguest or President Rafael Correa loses power, and they can try a do-over.

In the United States it would be time for the lawyers to have a sidebar and maybe take a nolo contendere plea and call the Ecuadorian encampment “time served.” Like it or not, Assange should take the deal and get a life again and do the work. The governments have also made their point about their great power and impunity. Enough said. Let’s move on.

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