Julian Assange
Credit: Newsonline/Flickr

I’m more than a little suspicious that Sweden has dropped its rape charges against Julian Assange as part of a coordinated effort to get him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The official explanation is consistent with this theory:

In explaining why Sweden was dropping the investigation, [Sweden’s director of public prosecution, Marianne] Ny told a news conference in Stockholm that “all possibilities to advance the investigation have now been exhausted” and that the legal proceedings could continue only if Assange were present in Sweden.

But she said that if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020, then an investigation could be reopened.

What’s the point of keeping the investigation going if all it does is provide a pretext for Assange to ask the Ecuadorians for asylum? The authorities in Ecuador are clearly tired of the arrangement and even briefly cut off Assange’s internet connection last year out of concern that he was meddling in the American election. But they weren’t going to kick him out so long as he was clearly vulnerable to extradition.

Whether he is still vulnerable to extradition isn’t known because the British won’t confirm or deny that the Americans have registered such a request, but at least we know now that there’s no certainty of extradition. Instead, there’s a much less significant risk of about a year of jail time for jumping bail.

British police said that Assange still faces arrest for jumping bail if he walks out of diplomatic protection, which Assange claims is still needed to keep him from being extradited to the United States to face charges of disclosing confidential military and diplomatic documents…

…The maximum penalty for breaching bail is up to a year in prison or a fine.

The police also recognized that Assange is now “wanted for a much less serious offense” and said they would “provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense.”

Will the Ecuadorians continue to provide him sanctuary to avoid a mere bail-jumping charge? Will this provide them the pretext they need to end their interminable relationship with Assange?

One thing should be clear, and that’s that the Americans want Assange more than ever, although that desire probably doesn’t go to the top.

President Trump was highly supportive of WikiLeaks during his 2016 campaign for office, when the website released hacked emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta. Trump once told a rally: “We love WikiLeaks. They revealed a lot.”

In the short term, Assange is doing his best version of a victory lap, claiming a vindication that doesn’t exist, and promising more “war” against the West.

The silver-haired activist made a rare appearance on the balcony of the embassy late Friday afternoon with a clenched fist in the air.

“Today is an important victory,” he told the throng of journalists camped outside the embassy, a stone’s throw from the Harrods department store.

He said that a “legal conflict” with the United States and the United Kingdom was continuing and that a “proper war was just commencing.”

The usual useful idiots will buy what Assange is selling. In truth, this could be a prelude to his arrest.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com