London's Guardian, a newspaper known for its liberal politics and freedom-of-information campaigns, published in its Tuesday edition what appears to be the most extensive account to date of the events that led Swedish prosecutors to open investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct by WikiLeaks founder and frontman Julian Assange.
7/27/10: Adrian Lamo, perhaps best known for hacking into the New York Times computer system, explains why he told authorities that U.S. Pvt. First Class Bradley Manning was the alleged source of the Afghanistan Wikileaks docs.
The newspaper says that the case is still "mired in conflicting claims." But it offers a basic chronology of events that offers more detail than any other account to appear so far in an English-language publication. The Guardian's take on events is particularly noteworthy because it was one of three media organizations—the others being The New York Times and Der Spiegel magazine of Germany—to which WikiLeaks granted advance access to a cache of roughly 92,000 classified Pentagon field reports about the war in Afghanistan that it had apparently obtained from a U.S. government source. After reviewing the material for several weeks—during which some journalists from the media organizations were in close contact with Assange—the three publications ran lengthy stories based on the WikiLeaks material. WikiLeaks then posted about 76,000 of the Pentagon papers on its Web site for general inspection, attracting criticism from both U.S. officials and human-rights groups for allegedly failing to delete the names of Afghans who might be cooperating with U.S. and allied forces. WikiLeaks is now threatening to release the balance of its Afghan document cache, though its representatives have asserted they are now reviewing the documents themselves for possible sensitive information before making them public.
According to The Guardian, the sequence of events leading up to a prosecutor issuing an arrest warrant for Assange—now withdrawn—began earlier this month, when two Swedish women reportedly engaged in sexual trysts with Assange. His encounter with one woman reportedly occurred on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 14. His encounter with the second woman was allegedly on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 17.
The Guardian says that on Friday of last week, the two women, whom the paper identifies as Ms. A and Ms. W, together contacted police in Stockholm and "reported that they had been sexually assaulted by Assange." The newspaper says that both women "reported that they had been involved in consensual sexual relationships with Assange, but each reported a separate non-consensual incident of a similar character in which Assange allegedly had sex with them without using a condom." The Guardian also says that before going to police, the two women both asked Assange to undergo what the newspaper called a "health check," but Assange declined. Declassified reported on Monday that at least one of the women had become concerned about Assange's reluctance to submit to testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
After taking reports from the women, The Guardian says, Swedish police passed a report to prosecutors, who issued a formal warrant late on Friday for Assange's arrest on suspicion of rape—a case that The Guardian suggests was related to the encounter of Aug.17. Last Saturday, after a higher-ranking prosecutor examined the file, the warrant was withdrawn. However, as Declassified reported on Monday, the chief prosecutor on the case—who was responsible for cancelling the rape warrant—says that the investigation into both the alleged rape allegations and an allegation of "molestation," believed to be related to the encounter of Aug. 14, is still open, alough the cases could be wrapped up by the end of this week.
The Guardian reports that neither of the women involved in the case had originally wanted the case to be prosecuted. The paper says that Ms. W wanted to report the alleged rape to police but didn't want them to bring charges against Assange. The paper says Ms. A went with Ms. W to the police to offer moral support, but then became entangled in police questioning. The Guardian notes that neither police nor prosecutors have spoken to Assange to get his version of events. Chief Prosecutor Eva Finné told Declassified that she did not know whether Assange, a nomadic character who is notorious for his furtive travel and communication habits, is currently in Sweden.
A person who has been in contact with WikiLeaks' European supporters says that some of Assange's followers are becoming concerned that the site has been spreading suggestions that the Swedish investigation of Assange is the product of some kind of American plot against him.
The Guardian says the woman it identifies as Ms. A told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet over the weekend that she had only alleged molestation, not rape, and that she had said, "In both cases, what started out as voluntary sex subsequently developed into an assault. The other woman wanted to report rape. I gave my story as testimony to her story and to support her. We stand by the information." The Guardian says Ms. A also told the Swedish paper: "The charges against Assange are, of course, not orchestrated by the Pentagon. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man who has a twisted attitude to women and a problem with taking 'no' for an answer."
Assange, and WikiLeaks on his behalf, have suggested that the timing of the investigation—only days after WikiLeaks and the Pentagon had become embroiled in a heated war of words—was suspicious and hinted the probe was the product of some kind of official setup. On Sunday, Assange told the Middle Eastern broadcast outlet Al-Jazeera: "It is clearly a smear campaign … The only question is who was involved. We can have some suspicions about who would benefit, but without direct evidence, I would not be willing to make a direct allegation." He has not responded to a detailed inquiry about the case from Declassified sent on Sunday night.