Checking Naomi Wolf’s 8 big problems in the Assange case and coming up empty
by Göran Rudling
Recently I noticed an article posted on Mark Crispin Miller’s blog, “News from the Underground.” The article, written by Naomi Wolf, is called “Something Rotten in the State of Sweden: 8 Big Problems with the ‘Case’ Against Assange.” I have followed the Assange case from the beginning. I’ve made discoveries of deleted tweets, poor police work and other irregularities. Because of my findings I was asked to be a witness for the defense in the extradition hearings on the 7th and 8th of February 2011. There are problems in the Assange case, but none of Naomi Wolf’s claims are actually real problems. In fact, Naomi Wolf’s so-called problems are misconceptions and fictitious conspiracy theories.
In order to form an opinion we have to do some work. Make studies and find facts. Use criteria to draw conclusions. It is the sum of a number of conclusions that forms an opinion. If we do not base our opinion on facts, our opinion is nothing more than a point of view. It has no merit. There are many points of view in the Assange case and lots of disinformation, outright lies and conspiracy theories.
In Naomi Wolf’s article there are no references to sources. There is no mentioning of the underlying facts that she bases her opinion on. As if her opinion is not to be questioned. It makes me wonder what research did she did prior to writing the article.
According to Naomi Wolf:
“Their transcript of the complaints against Assange is strikingly unlike the dozens of such transcripts that I have read throughout the years as an advocate for victims of sex crimes. Specifically, there are eight ways in which this transcript is unusual.”
For some time I’ve been trying to find information that supports Naomi Wolf’s point of view. So far I have not been able to find anything.
Checking Naomi Wolf’s 8 big problems and coming up empty
I can say with certainty that this case is not being treated as a normal rape or sexual assault case. New details from the Swedish police make this quite clear. Their transcript of the complaints against Assange is strikingly unlike the dozens of such transcripts that I have read throughout the years as an advocate for victims of sex crimes.
Specifically, there are eight ways in which this transcript is unusual.
All the police documents in this case are in Swedish. Naomi Wolf is, as far as I know, not fluent in Swedish. Her perception of the case depends on the translation. In the original documents in Swedish I haven’t found anything that supports Naomi Wolf’s interpretation. Therefore I ask Naomi Wolf to reveal the translation she has that supports her views.
1) Police never pursue complaints in which there is no indication of lack of consent.
To try to determine police actions from the contents of police interviews, transcripts, is very difficult if not impossible. However, this does not prevent Naomi Wolf from having an opinion:
“The Assange transcripts, in contrast to any typical sex crime report, are a set of transcripts in which neither of the women has indicated a lack of consent. (There is one point at which Miss W asserts she was asleep – in which case it would indeed have been illegal to have sex with her – but her deleted tweets show that she was not asleep, and subsequent discussion indicates consent.)”
From the interview it is evident that Miss W claims she was asleep when Julian Assange initiated intercourse with her. An action that in most countries is regarded as rape. The sex was also unprotected.
Naomi Wolf is obviously confused when she states that Miss W’s “deleted tweets show that she was not asleep”. There is nothing in the investigation that indicates that Miss W tweeted. Much less deleted any tweets.
Miss A, the second accuser, has deleted tweets. But the tweets contain nothing about being asleep or not. I know this personally since I was the one that discovered the deleted tweets.
2) Police do not let two women report an accusation about one man together.
“The transcripts seem to indicate that the police processed the two accusers’ complaints together.”
“Thus the dual testimonies taken in this case are utterly atypical and against all Western and especially Swedish rape law practice and policy.”
There is absolutely nothing in the original police documents that indicates that the two women were interviewed together or that the two women were “processed” together. On the contrary police reports show that the two women were interviewed separately and gave their statements separately. If there is anything in Naomi Wolf’s transcripts that indicate that the two women were interviewed together I would like to see it.
A memorandum from the police officer in charge, Linda Wassgren, states that the two women were interviewed separately before any complaints were registered on 20th August 2010. “Jag valde då givetvis att samtala med kvinnorna var för sig och bad dem detaljerat att berätta om vad de varit med om.” (I chose the course of talking with the women individually and asked them to tell me in detail about what they have been through.)
In Sven-Erik Alhem’s expert testimony for the extradition hearing on the 7th and 8th of February there is a comment in paragraph 15: “they appear to have interviewed both complainants together”. Sven-Erik Alhem was given incorrect information by Julian Assange’s lawyers. Something that was noted by Judge Riddle.
3) Police never take testimony from former boyfriends.
The police interview anybody that they reasonably believe has information about a sex crime. That includes all possible witnesses. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, stepfathers, stepmothers, brothers, sisters, friends, work mates, girlfriends, boyfriends etc. What will be used in court is another matter. There is a great difference between what evidence is admissible in a US court and a Swedish court.
“There’s a rape shield law in Sweden (as there is throughout Europe) that prevents anyone not involved in the case to say anything to the police, whether it be positive or negative, about the prior sexual habits of the complainant.”
There is no rape shield law in Sweden. Maybe Naomi Wolf can clarify what she thinks is the Swedish rape shield law.
4) Prosecutors never let two alleged victims have the same lawyer.
Naomi Wolf is apparently unaware of the how the Swedish legal system works. Since 1988, alleged victims of sex crimes and other serious crimes are offered a “målsägarbiträde”. The actual decision to appoint a “målsägarbiträde” is made by the courts. The prosecutor is not involved in that decision.
The function of the “målsägarbiträde” is to provide support and assistance to the injured party and defend his/her interests in the case. It is also the duty of the “målsägarbiträde” to look after the economical interests of the injured party.
So why would the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, allow such a thing [allowing the two women have the same “målsägarbiträde”] in this case? Perhaps — bearing in mind the threat that Assange will be extradited to the US once he is in Sweden — because she does not expect to have a trial, let alone have to try to win one.
The prosecutor does not decide who is the “målsägarbiträde” for a victim. There is nothing extraordinary about two victims having the same “målsägarbiträde”. Naomi Wolf is ill informed. She is better at formulating groundless conspiracy theories.
5) A lawyer never typically takes on two alleged rape victims as clients.
It is obvious that Naomi Wolf cannot tell the difference between a lawyer and a “målsägarbiträde”.
“No attorney–and certainly no high-powered attorney– would want to represent two women claiming to have been victimized by the same man, for the reasons above: the second woman’s testimony could be weaker than the other one’s, thus lessening the lawyer’s chances of success.”
From Naomi Wolf’s statement it is evident that she is not aware of how a rape case is tried in Sweden. There is a fundamental difference between being a lawyer in a case and being a “målsägarbiträde”. The latter’s job is to support and to help the victim tell the police all important details in the preliminary investigation. The “målsägarbiträde” is not an active part in the trial. It is the prosecutor that acts in a Swedish court on behalf of a sex crime victim. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect is guilty.
It is common that one “målsägarbiträde” can have two or more persons that are victimized by the same offender. It is also common that two or more persons who were victimized by the same offender have the same prosecutor and that the cases are tried together.
6) A rape victim never uses a corporate attorney.
A rape victim does not want a corporate attorney to act as a “målsägarbiträde”. The “målsägarbiträde” in the Assange case is not a corporate attorney.
“Given that a law firm such as this one charges about four hundred euros an hour, and a typical rape case takes eight months to a year to get through the courts – given that legal advice will cost tens of thousands of euros, which young women victims usually do not have access to – it is reasonable to ask: who is paying the legal bills?”
The “målsägarbiträde” for the two women is Claes Borgström. He is not a corporate attorney. He is a Criminal lawyer, a Public Defender. It is easy to see if one bothers to look at the lawyer’s home page. He specializes in Criminal cases, Public Defending, Counsel (målsägarbiträde), Employment Law, Discrimination Law, Business Law, Contract Law and Tort. Information about Claes Borgström is available on the Internet. Just google “Claes Borgström law”.
Naomi Wolf depicts the two women’s “målsägarbiträde”, Claes Borgström, as an expensive corporate attorney who charges 400 Euros an hour. She wants us to believe that the two women’s “legal advice will cost tens of thousands of euros , which young women victims usually do not have access to – it is reasonable to ask: who is paying the legal bills?” It is apparent that Naomi Wolf wants us to accept as true that there is some mysterious well-off dark force footing the bill.
None of this is true. There is no expensive corporate attorney involved. Claes Borgström is a public defender/criminal lawyer. The “målsägarbiträde” is paid by the Swedish state at a standard rate of approximately 130 Euros per hour.
7) A rape victim is never encouraged to make any kind of contact with her assailant and she may never use police to compel her alleged assailant to take medical tests.
“The Police do not act as medical mediators for STD testing, since rapists are dangerous and vindictive.”
“A victim is NEVER advised to manage, even with police guidance, any further communication with her assailant that is not through formal judicial channels.”
There is nothing in the original police reports that indicate that the women were advised to contact the alleged assailant about anything. If there is anything in Naomi Wolf’s translations indicating this is the case I ask Naomi Wolf to show it.
Julian Assange’s lawyers have in vain tried to tell a story that the two women went to the police to investigate the possibility of forcing Julian Assange to take an HIV-test. And then, since the Swedish sex laws are written by fanatical state-feminists, a feminist prosecutor realized a sex crime had been committed and decided to chase Julian Assange around the world against the wishes of the two women.
It is true that one of the women talked about HIV-tests prior to going to the police. It is true that both women talked to Julian Assange prior to going to the police. But I can’t find any information in the original documents that the women contacted Julian Assange after the alleged crimes were reported.
What we want to know is what happened at the police station. We want facts. We don’t want hearsay. To find out what happened at the police station on 20 August 2010 we have to look at the memorandum by Linda Wassgren. She states rightfully that the two women talked from very early on about the crime rape and that both women were victims. In her memorandum there is no mentioning of forcing Julian Assange to take an HIV-test.
Naomi Wolf claims to have “23 years of reporting on global rape law, and my five years of supporting women at rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters”. It is beyond me how she can claim “rapists are dangerous and vindictive.” Anybody with remote experience of rapists knows there are all kinds. Some even have characteristics similar to Julian Assange. This is not a suggestion that Julian Assange is a rapist or is guilty of the crimes he is accused of.
8) Police and prosecutors never leak police transcripts during an active investigation because they face punishment for doing so.
“The full transcripts of the women’s complaints have been leaked to the US media.”
“It seems quite likely that the Assange documents were leaked by the police or prosecutors because they got a signal from higher-ups that they could do so with impunity.”
To make one thing very clear from the beginning: as far as I know, no documents have been “leaked” from the police or the prosecutors. Not one single document.
The only confirmed leak is the “Detention Memorandum”. The 100 page file containing interviews with Julian Assange, the two women and a number of witnesses. This leak originates from the office of Julian Assange’s lawyer as one can easily tell by the first page. I know who uploaded the file on the Internet, information that I intend to keep to myself. The person has no connection to the police or the prosecutors. Or the accused or the accusers.
If there are no leaks from the police and the prosecutors, how come official documents are in the hands of the media? It all has to do with the Swedish law Offentlighets- och Sekretesslagen (2009:400), a law similar to Freedom of Information Act. The law simply states that all documents in government and public institutions are public unless they contain information that, if revealed, would cause harm. It includes police documents. Anybody can apply to see a specific document. The government must release the document unless it decides that the document or parts of the document should be classified.
In the Assange case the media asked for the police files around 21st August 2010. The files were released with details edited out some days later. Details that were regarded sensitive to the ongoing investigation. In the released files there are some documents that explain the police department’s reasoning behind editing out some sections. I have condensed the file that was released to the media to include only the police department’s decision and the first interview with Miss W.
Julian Assange’s lawyers have complained on numerous occasions that the media were given more information than they were: a statement that is utterly false. If one compares Miss W’s interview in the Detention Memorandum with the one that was handed out to the media it is evident that the lawyers were given much more information.
According to Offentlighets- och Sekretesslagen (2009:400) anybody can apply to get information from the police department. It is also a fact that anybody who applied to get the same information as media received in late August 2010 would get it. A letter from the Australian High Commission on 20th December 2010 confirms this. “If the Embassy so wishes, it is possible to get the file which has been released to the media.” Julian Assange’s lawyers never applied to get the file.
Preparing for my witness statement for in the February hearing, I was asked by Assange’s lawyers on the 21st January 2011 at 17:42 to send a copy of the files that were released to the media. I sent the file 12 hours and 2 minutes later.
We have to remember that the police and the prosecutors have made mistakes revealing the fact that Julian Assange was wanted for rape. I wouldn’t call it a leak. It is an unauthorized confirmation. In the eventing of 20th August 2010 a number of media organizations were informed that Julian Assange was wanted by the police for rape and molestation. These organizations tried to confirm the information by calling the prosecutors’ office. The only organization that was successful was the tabloid Expressen. They called the prosecutor in charge, Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand, and after Expressen revealed all the details of the case finally the prosecutor confirmed that Julian Assange was wanted. It was this confirmation that was the mistake. The prosecutor did not reveal any details of the case.
Who informed the media organizations about Julian Assange’s arrest? Nobody knows. But my view, which could be wrong, it is just as likely that someone close to Miss A informed media as it is that someone in the police and prosecutors office did it. Until we know, we have to accept that we don’t know.
9) Karl Rove is an advisor to the Swedish government in its prosecution of Julian Assange
In the first paragraph of her article Naomi Wolf states:
Now that Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project, has confirmed Karl Rove’s role as an advisor to the Swedish government in its prosecution of Julian Assange on sexual misconduct charges, it is important that we note the many glaring aberrations in the handling of Assange’s case by the authorities in Sweden.
As it is with most of Naomi Wolf’s claims this one also has no foundation.There is absolutely nothing to support her claim. Just innuendo. In reality it is like this: in 2008 Roland Poirier Martinsson invited Karl Rove to the Almedalen week, an annual event in Visby Gotland which is an important meeting place for everyone involved in Swedish politics . Karl Rove gave some interviews and argued that Sweden should adopt a pro-active Internet policy. Advice that he passed on to the Swedish government (dominated by the Moderate party). Proof that there is nothing sinister going on is that we can find information of Karl Rove’s clients on his web page. One client is “the Moderate Party of Sweden”. If Karl Rove was involved in some behind the scenes dirty tricks with the present Swedish government to get Julian Assange illegally to the US, do you think he would publish this information on his website? I don’t think so.
The alleged connection between the Swedish government and Karl Rove has created great interest on the Internet. It’s been repeated over and over again. But it is simply not true. I will deal with this issue in great detail in a later post.
Facts about extraditions from Sweden to the US
Julian Assange is scared that he will be extradited from Sweden to the US. There is nothing in the history of Swedish extraditions to the US that warrants Julian Assange’s great fear. Many well known and respected people have commented on Sweden’s track record for extraditions to the US. Geoffrey Robertson QC, part of Julian Assange’s legal team in the extradition hearing in February 2011 states:
“Sweden has a deplorable record and this is quite – it’s been condemned by a number of European judicial authorities for what is called “rendition” to the CIA without going through a proper legal process.”
What is the truth? In the last 50 years not one person has been extradited to the US for espionage or military crimes. Sweden has granted residence permits to more than 430 deserters from US military forces. Not one person has been extradited to the US. Not one.
In 1992 the US asked for the extradition of a CIA defector, Edward Lee Howard. Sweden refused to extradite him since we do not extradite people that are accused of political crimes. Espionage is regarded as a political crime. What is of interest is that the Prime Minister at the time of the refusal was Carl Bildt. The same Carl Bildt that Julian Assange labels his arch enemy and a long time US Embassy informant and bed-fellow with Karl Rove.
DID Julian Assange flee Sweden in order to avoid interrogation?
Julian Assange’s lawyers claim that Julian did not flee Sweden to avoid interrogation. From the judgment in Magistrates’ Court one can read:
I have not heard from Mr Assange and do not know whether he had been told, by any source, that he was wanted for interrogation before he left Sweden. I do not know whether he was uncontactable from 21st – 29th September and if that was the case I do not know why. It would have been a reasonable assumption from the facts (albeit not necessarily an accurate one) that Mr Assange was deliberately avoiding interrogation in the period before he left Sweden. Some witnesses suggest that there were other reasons why he was out of contact. I have heard no evidence that he was readily contactable.
There is a document called Agreed statement of Facts and Issues. In it one can find information that Julian Assange has avoided police interviews on three separate occasions. 28 September, 6 October and 14 October. When the prosecutor on 12th October was informed that Julian Assange would not show up on 14 October she
indicated her intention to issue an EAW if the Appellant did not attend for an interview.
Julian Assange and his lawyers claim that he has been available for interviews. A claim that is not true according Judge Riddle and Jennifer Robinson: “It is important to note here that Julian was, at that time, difficult to contact.”
The prosecutor allowed Julian Assange to leave Sweden
When the preliminary investigation was re-opened on 1st September Julian Assange was suspected of rape and other sex crimes. On the 15th September Björn Hurtig, Julian Assange’s Swedish lawyer, was told that Julian Assange was not under arrest and had no restrictions on his travel. A message that could be interpreted as if Julian Assange wanted to flee Sweden to avoid interviews he could do so and he would not be stopped. The message was not that Julian Assange was cleared of suspicion and that he was a free man.
Why wasn’t Julian Assange arrested? It seems like Julian Assange gave his lawyer and the prosecutor an impression that he would come in for an interview to clear his name. During the extradition hearing Björn Hurtig said that he was given the impression that Julian Assange was willing to come back to Sweden for an interview.
Experts opinion of the case
From the judgment in Magistrates’ Court:
Mr Hurtig said in his statement that it was astonishing that Ms Ny made no effort to interview his client. In fact this is untrue. … The statement was a deliberate attempt to mislead the court. It did in fact mislead Ms Brita Sundberg-Weitman and Mr Alhem. Had they been given the true facts then that would have changed their opinion on a key fact in a material way.
Many articles about the Julian Assange case cite Brita Sundberg-Weitman’s and Sven-Erik Alhem’s stated opinions. What one has to remember is that their opinions are not about what really happened in the case.
There are many legal myths about the Assange case. Naomi Wolf invents some in her article. Most of the documents in this case are in Swedish. I haven’t found anything in the original Swedish documents that support Naomi Wolf’s views. I therefore assume there are errors in translation. I hope that Naomi Wolf is interested in getting an accurate picture of the case. If so I am happy to help to make sure that she gets all relevant information.
There are problems in the Assange case. Mistakes have been made by the police and the prosecutors: something that unfortunately isn’t uncommon in sex crime investigations. There is nothing that suggests outside political influence. Most mistakes can be attributed to incompetence.
In my view the most remarkable thing about the case is Julian Assange’s own comments and his lack of appropriate crisis management. Paul Ronge, one of Sweden’s most experienced Public Relations experts, puts it very well in his interesting article “So I advised Assange – and he did just the opposite”:
“I think the truth is that Assange from the very beginning of this process has done everything absolutely wrong.”