The latest episode of the Julian Assange story once again damages Wikileaks and its mission. By refusing to refute and defend the allegations of rape Assange allows his supporters to be labeled as sex crime apologists. Its time for him to part ways with Wikileaks so people can support the cause without being put in the uncomfortable position of also supporting an accused sex offender.
For what its worth, I do think Assange is being targetted by government forces and they will smear and discredit him. For the UK to hint at changing the status of the Ecuadorian embassy, however diplomatically put, adds some credence to the conspiracy theories that abound. After all, in 1984 PC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered by someone in the Libyan Embassy and the Thatcher government didn’t threaten to revoke the embassy’s status. Assange, by comparison, is a man wanted for extradition on suspicion of rape and other sexual offences. It seems to me that someone somewhere is leaning heavily on the UK government and I don’t think it’s Sweden.
I read a profile of Assange a few years ago that said he’d put himself forward to be the figurehead for Wikileaks, to take all the flak. Presumably he felt his past was clean enough and that there was nothing for the media, or intelligence agencies, to dig up. Now, with the allegations against him in Sweden, that tactic has run its course and he needs to face up to them and return to Sweden to face due process. Its possible that the charges he faces have been engineered by a hostile agency but until he demonstrates that in a court he remains an alleged sexual offender. If he fears for his political freedom in Sweden then he should seek asylum once he’s there. By seeking it here in the UK he reinforces the view that he is avoiding the rape allegations rather than some kind of extraordinary rendition.
Wikileaks for its part needs to distance itself from him completely. His involvement and leadership has been valuable but it’s over now. The longer Wikileaks retains its association with Assange the less credible it becomes.