Assange defied prosecutors and published his testimony regarding sexual assault allegations
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has defied Swedish prosecutors and published the testimony he gave when interviewed over a sexual assault allegation last month, making his version of events public for the first time.
The release of the 19-page document, posted on WikiLeaks’ Twitter account Wednesday, will likely anger the Swedish authorities, who have previously said they wanted to keep personal details of the case confidential to protect the complainant.
Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange in August 2010 after two women made claims of sexual assault during a speaking tour in the country that month. Three of the four counts against him expired last year, as drawn-out legal wrangling between the parties resulted in a failure to question the WikiLeaks founder.
The 45-year-old Australian was finally interviewed over the most serious allegation — that of rape — in Ecuador’s London embassy last month, where he has been holed up since seeking asylum there in 2012.
The whistleblower — whose site has published leaked confidential documents from governments around the world — has said he believes prosecutors are pursuing the allegations for political reasons. He has repeatedly spoken of his fears that he could be extradited from Sweden to the U.S., where he fears he could face the death penalty if charged and convicted of publishing government secrets.
In Assange’s statement, he maintained he was “entirely innocent” of the allegations against him. His account described meeting the complainant, who he said “appeared to be romantically interested” in him, at a time when some of his critics were publicly calling for his assassination and U.S. officials had said he was being tracked.
He said that although he loved another woman at the time, he feared that the complainant’s strong interest in him could lead her to an unpredictable response, potentially revealing his location to authorities “if she believed I was rejecting her.”
He claimed they had consensual sex, which was unprotected, and said the prosecution’s allegation that he had initiated sex with her the next morning while she was asleep – and therefore unable to consent – was “false.”
Statements made by the complainant at the time of the allegation contradict the version given by Assange.
The complainant’s lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, responded to Assange’s latest leak on Wednesday, accusing him of using the media to “violate” her client, the Guardian reported.
“The only thing I can say is that Assange has low credibility, which we will prove when we prosecute,” Massi Fritz said during an interview with Swedish television. “I expect the prosecutor to issue charges. I also expect Assange to stop violating my client in the media. She has suffered more than enough for six years.”
It remains to be seen how Assange’s release of his account will impact the Swedish authorities’ decision on whether to proceed with the investigation, and the path ahead in the case remains murky. Nevertheless, Assange’s decision will no doubt irritate prosecutors who are advancing their investigation into the allegations six years after the allegations were made.
Robin Simonsson, public relations officer for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, told VICE News that the body had no response to Assange’s publication of his account, as the ongoing investigation was subject to confidentiality.
“The prosecutors cannot provide information concerning the interview,” Simonsson said.
Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges based on the findings of a written report from Ecuadorean officials who were also present at the interview, Simonsson said, adding that it was not known when the report would be forthcoming. The statute of limitations means that prosecutors have only until 2020 to charge Assange over the rape allegation.
Once lionized by many on the left, Assange has lost some of his luster in recent years as he has faced scrutiny over the sex assault allegations. He faced criticism for his organization’s interventions in the U.S. presidential campaign. WikiLeaks released a trove of hacked emails from Democratic organizations and figures, some of which White House officials said had been obtained through Russian hackers. The leaks regularly dogged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS