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Twelve Hours That Shook the World
Julian Assange charged with rape, then charges suddenly dropped.
STOCKHOLM (Radsoft) — It started in the wee hours of the morning Swedish local time.
Notorious Swedish sleaze rag Expressen suddenly published (around 05:00 AM) a sensational story that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had been arrested in absentia on 'probable cause'.
Their typically sensationalistic headline (see above) was 'Wikileaks founder hunted for rape in Stockholm'.
Three Expressen staff immediately started tweeting like crazy, trying to give the story legs. No one really believed them but they kept at it for several hours. None of the other more 'reputable' Swedish papers touched the story.
Twelve hours later it was all over. No story, let's all move on. What happened?
21 August 05:00 - 'No Proof He's Innocent Either!
Expressen bomb the web (and Twitter) with a 'non-story' - a 'non-story' to the degree that there weren't any details to speak of, there were no second or additional sources, the people supposedly interviewed refused to say anything. But Expressen, the notorious rag where budding journalists are regularly told 'if you can't find a story then you make one up', decided to run with their 'non-story' anyway.
Expressen had been feeling a bit miffed since the past weekend when Julian Assange agreed to visit all the major Stockholm newspapers but theirs. Expressen is owned by the powerful Bonnier clan who control most of the media in Sweden - and today a huge number of assets purchased from Time.
Scepticism was great from the outset. The Expressen tweeters kept pushing their story but people weren't buying it - they sensed a conspiracy instead.
The Expressen story was short on facts and details but long on hyperbole and FUD. One of the most amazing parts of that original article was how they admitted there was no proof Assange was guilty of anything 'but there's no proof he's innocent either!'
Two girls - who now claim they didn't know each other (or Julian) before last week - were to have met him, each in a different town, about 100 km from each other. This despite Julian's heavy schedule which doesn't exactly allow any sidestepping.
They both claimed Julian had 'harassed' them - but without violence or the threat thereof. And the one incident was to nevertheless have resulted in 'rape'.
The two girls were to not have known each other (or even met) until afterwards, when they magically coincided in the capital city, began talking about their lives, and discovered they'd both met Wikileaks founder Julian Assange - who had attempted to rape them both.
The 'sex' in both cases was to have begun as 'consensual' but then suddenly wasn't any longer. And according to the one girl, Assange had a 'skewed view of women and didn't know how to take 'no' for an answer'.
The two girls then went to the police station in Stockholm city - but not to file complaints but to seek 'protection': they claimed they felt threatened. By a person they also admitted had not behaved in a threatening way.
Charges were nevertheless filed. And the Stockholm police issued an APB for Julian Assange on 'probable cause', the most severe form of 'hunting' in Swedish police jargon.
Both a policewoman and a representative of the prosecutor's office were supposedly interviewed by Expressen. Neither had any details to offer. Not a word.
But that's what Expressen refer to as a 'flash'.
21 August 09:30 - 12:30: 'Legs'
By noon the story's gained legs and is being picked up internationally. There are still no further details and most news sources simply refer to the Google Translate version of the Expressen article.
Swedish media pick up on it as well - but have nothing to add.
The question is still why Expressen would wait until 05:00 to flash the story. No one's awake in Sweden at that hour. But it's prime time news hour in the US.
Expressen's morning edition looks like the illustration at the right. The wording was changed slightly to include the word 'suspected' - he's no longer known to be guilty by Expressen.
Shortly after 12:00 the Wikileaks Twitter feed came out with the following.
'Julian Assange: the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.'
Three hours earlier - 09:30 local time - the Wikileaks Twitter account posted the following.
'We were warned to expect 'dirty tricks'. Now we have the first one: http://bit.ly/bv5ku9'
The link leads to the Google Translate page for the Expressen article.
'Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting.'
The Original Article
Expressen's original article is found here. It's translated below (and not by Google Translate).
Wikileaks founder arrested for rape
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is being sought by the Swedish police. He is suspected on probable cause of rape in Stockholm. 'He has been arrested in absentia', corroborates Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand, prosecutor on duty in Stockholm City, for Expressen.
Julian Assange has been in Sweden recently to lecture at amongst other venues the LO building in Stockholm on the topic 'The First Victim of War is the Truth'. The Brotherhood Movement of christian social democrats sponsored the event.
Yesterday evening he was arrested in absentia by the Swedish prosecutor on duty, according to Expressen's sources.
'It's rape', corroborates Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand for Expressen on Friday evening.
Is this about 'probable cause'?
'Yes it is.'
A few hours earlier the prosecutor had received information from the Stockholm police about a rape complaint filed against Julian Assange.
'I don't know when the complaint was filed. I found out about it now this evening and I arrested him this evening', says Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand.
According to Expressen's sources, suspicion of crime arose after two women between 20 and 30 years of age visited the police.
Met in Stockholm
He was to have met one of the women between Saturday and Sunday last week in a flat on Södermalm in Stockholm.
He was to have met the other women in Enköping last Tuesday, according to Expressen's sources.
A source with insight into the matter tells how he met the women:
'He met the victims through his assignments.'
The prosecutor will at this impasse only corroborate the suspicion of rape but will not divulge further details.
'The women were to have gone to the police station in Stockholm City yesterday to consult with them about their experiences with Julian Assange. They didn't want - according to my information - to file a complaint.'
'The women are scared to death and therefore do not want to cooperate with the police. The police believe that in this case it's the suspect's position of power that the women are afraid of. This makes matters difficult for the police and the prosecutor', says a 'source' to Expressen.
An individual close to the girls reveals:
'The girls know each other and they know they've both run afoul of the same thing.'
According to the prosecutor, the police do not know the location of the Wikileaks founder right now.
Has he fled the country after this incident?
'No clue. I have arrested him in absentia. I know nothing about where he is.'
When Expressen confronts the prosecutor with the detail that this is about more than one woman, the answer is:
'I've not spoken with them, so I can't say anything. With consideration for everyone involved, I cannot at the present time say anything.'
Do you know if the police are actively searching for him right now?
'I hope so. I presume so. I know nothing.'
Julian Assange met the Pirate Party's leader Rick Falkvinge last Sunday evening to sign an agreement whereby the party would run Wikileaks servers.
'We sat and ate dinner last Sunday when we signed the agreement between Wikileaks and the Pirate Party', says Rickard Falkvinge.
Did he seem OK when you met him last Sunday?
'Absolutely. There were smiles all around.'
Julian Assange revealed during the dinner that he would leave Sweden on Wednesday.
Expressen has in vain sought Julian Assange through Wikileaks.
The story is credited to Diamant Salihu and Niklas Svensson. Expressen claim the story was first published Friday, then updated Saturday, but there was no sign or mention of it until Saturday at 05:00 local time.
The above story is full of holes. Not only in the logic of the supposed complainants but in Expressen's patented way to write stories - and create filler details when needed.
- The authors' 'sources'. They're never named and sometimes they're not even specified. Given the prosecutor's refusal to reveal any details - including identities - it's very remarkable Expressen have been able to talk to the friends of two girls whose identities they don't even know.
- It's theoretically possible Expressen could have in some magical way discovered the identities of the girls but it's extremely unlikely. The authors would have surely mentioned the fact in such case. The 'search' for Julian Assange was most likely not broadcast on police radio but was instead a methodical in-house search through possible addresses and phone numbers (if anything at all).
- Expressen claim to know two girls are involved before the prosecutor said anything in the matter. Expressen do not anywhere mention they've been in contact with the police - only the prosecutor on duty Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand.
- 'According to sources' is simply worn out by overuse.
- Several of the more 'colourful' details of the Expressen story have later been proven to be patently false - this despite Expressen claiming to have reliable sources.
All in all the article reads like a typical piece from Expressen. The Wikileaks description of Expressen as a 'tabloid' is not far off.
The story itself defies logic as well.
- As later revealed, the two girls - from different towns - didn't know each other previously. They didn't know Julian Assange either.
- They somehow ran into each other by pure happenstance in the same city, despite the one not living there at all. Then got along, chatted - and discovered they had a mutual 'experience'.
- They then decided (presumably the same evening) to visit the police station not to file a complaint but to consult with the police about their 'fears'. But later developments show the girls denying being afraid of Julian Assange - this despite Expressen claiming to have a source close to them who knows they were.
- What remains is the story that Julian Assange, previously not acquainted with either girl, and despite his busy schedule, suddenly running into both in different locations, one of which was way off his beaten path, to engage in consensual sex that in both cases, without a hint of violence or the threat of violence, somehow resulted in molestation and rape.
How does one go about raping someone else without violence or the threat of violence?
Suddenly the other Stockholm tabloid got a scoop. Someone identifying herself as one of the two girls contacted Aftonbladet - the newspaper Julian Assange is now going to write for.
She was basically calling to change her story.
She and the other girl didn't know each other. They didn't know Julian Assange either. And it all had started as consensual sex - for both of them - but then somehow, and without the hint of violence or the threat thereof, had turned into something else.
She described herself as 30 years old. She didn't explain how she met the other girl who'd also encountered Julian Assange. (Aftonbladet didn't bother asking.) She also didn't explain how Julian Assange had found his way to Enköping, 100 kilometres off the beaten track, northwest of Stockholm, where he wouldn't otherwise be going, but now going to meet a woman he didn't know.
She said she'd rung Aftonbladet to correct some of the details in the original Expressen story.
[According to the latest episode in this saga, Assange is still being investigated for having molested this 30 year old. But even this detail, given the quality of Swedish tabloid journalism, should be held suspect.]
She further explains that the other woman whom she did not know (and who did not know her) somehow contacted her and told her a story similar to her own. She does not reveal how the 20 year old even knew anything had happened to her or how she found out about her - after all, they claim they didn't know each other.
And at that point the woman clammed up - 'out of consideration for the ongoing investigation'. But she insists both of them told the police everything.
'I believed her story immediately', she told Aftonbladet, 'because I myself had such an experience.'
Then the women decided to go to the police with their stories.
'But it's not true we were afraid of Assange and didn't dare file a complaint', the 30 year old insisted. In both cases it's about consensual sex from the beginning.
'The other woman wanted to file a complaint for rape. I told them my story as testimony for the other woman's story and to support her. We stand behind what we've said.'
The woman finally went on to attack the conspiracy theorists.
'The accusations against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon or anyone else. Responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man with a twisted view of womanhood who doesn't know how to take a 'no' for an answer.'
But even here things seem to wobble a bit too much.
- How did the woman identify herself? How did she prove she was one of the complainants?
- How could Aftonbladet possibly identify her when her identity is not known and when she's only a voice on the telephone - or at best an anonymous face in a news office?
- Would a woman who's just been through such a terrible traumatic experience - and yet in no way identified - want to actually contact the media instead of just getting away from the hysteria?
- How can consensual sex become molestation or rape with no hint of violence or even the threat thereof?
- How did these girls supposedly meet Assange? How did they meet each other if they lived in different cities? How did they get to know of the existence of each other? That first telephone call - it was supposedly made from one woman to another when they didn't even know each other? Why didn't Aftonbladet ask the tough questions?
21 August 16:30
The news then hit that Julian Assange was still in Sweden and was preparing to travel in to meet the police in Stockholm. A lot of people online were suddenly apprehensive the CIA were going to nab Assange when he turned up.
Then just as suddenly the final story broke: chief prosecutor Eva Finné reviewed the case and concluded there was none.
The story hit three of the major Swedish dailies almost immediately (and was picked up by Sky News in record time) but Expressen were to delay their story for a long while.
There are probably more CIA agents in Stockholm than in all of the rest of Europe. Stockholm's always been the Casablanca of the north - since back in the days of the second world war.
Restaurant Cattelin in the old town boasts of its spy connection. This is where they all hung out back in the day.
The Soviet embassy became the #1 spook station after the war - but then came Perestroika. The US became #1.
Today the US embassy at Strandvägen 101 in Stockholm is the biggest concentration of spooks in Western Europe.
The towering complex on the fashionable Östermalm has at least five floors above ground, several below ground, and most is of course off-limits to visitors.
You're bound to run into spooks everywhere. They identify themselves as 'military attachés' but if you ask again and politely, they'll tell you they're spooks.
There's an informal alliance between the Swedish secret police (SÄPO) and the CIA and the US embassy. Everyone knows everyone else - but they pretend to know nothing about it. The Swedes regularly plant spooks in the US embassy as ordinary clerical staff; members of the boards of directors of some of Sweden's most influential corporations and banks have ties to the Swedish secret police; they stay in touch.
The CIA know who the moles are but of course say nothing about it. They seed misinformation with them.
And so forth. It's all fun and games.
Sweden is a neutral country - and yet the war games of the defence department have always been about keeping attackers at bay for 24 hours until the 'good guys' from the US arrive.
Swedish politics might attain to a level of neutrality - but that's only on paper. That's not reality. The Swedes and the yanks are buddy-buddy, always have been, always will be. Swedish neutrality was an important NATO 'buffer zone' in the Cold War.
The CIA wouldn't have much difficulty planting 'assets' inside a Swedish police station or at one of the Bonnier companies. There's also an affinity that unites Bonnier companies with the US, especially since the war on The Pirate Bay began. Expressen tend to attack anything with the word 'pirate' on it.
Now no one can suggest - much less prove, at least at this impasse - that the CIA (on behalf of the Pentagon) were in fact behind the Wikileaks smear campaign. But it's certainly not inconceivable - and given the clumsy twists and turns, it certainly smacks of the kind of 'frat boy prank' the agency are so well known for.