Yesterday I concluded my post with the following ominous observation:
It will be interesting to observe how the story continues to unfold, but ruthless retaliation against Wikileaks and Assange is almost certainly assured.
Today that brutal retaliation was initiated, as Julian Assange was arrested in London on dubious charges of rape and sexual molestation:
LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to London police Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Assange was at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to attend a hearing. His Swedish lawyer told The Associated Press his client would challenge any extradition from Britain to Sweden. …
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been accused by two women in Sweden. He faces rape and sexual molestation allegations in one case and sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in the other. Assange denies the allegations.
His British attorney Mark Stephens says the allegations stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex” last summer. …
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was pleased by the arrest.
“That sounds like good news to me,” he said.
It is impossible to know how accurate these allegations might be, but it seems highly likely that they have been fabricated in an attempt to smear Assange’s name and, by extension, the reputation of WikiLeaks. The accusations could also serve several important functions beyond mere reputational harm. First, as long as Assange is detained he cannot actively assist in furthering the WikiLeaks agenda. Second, as long as Assange is in custody he stands the risk of being held – and tried – for charges not yet pressed. Third, Assange and WikiLeaks will undoubtedly be devoting a great deal of money towards extricating Assange from this legal quagmire.
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