What are Julian Assange's Sex Charges All About?

| Tue Dec. 7, 2010 11:31 AM EST

Is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of rape? That's for a Swedish court to decide. But if you're interested in the details of exactly what the charges against Assange are, Richard Pendlebury has a pretty thorough rundown in the Daily Mail today. Basically, it involves consensual sex that allegedly turned unconsensual because (in one case) a condom broke and (in the other case) Assange refused to wear a condom in the first place — both of which are crimes in Sweden under the circumstances Assange is charged with (i.e., forcibly continuing with intercourse despite the withdrawal of consent). Pendlebury is very clearly skeptical of both the charges and the women who brought them ("the more one learns about the case, the more one feels that [] the allegations simply don’t ring true"), so you should ignore some of the loaded language he uses. But he does lay out the basic narrative fairly well.

It's pretty obvious that the timing of the sex charges against Assange is fishy. At the same time, it's striking — though not really surpising — how ideologically charged this has become. The motivations of the accusers aside, if there's evidence that the Swedish court system is corrupt I haven't heard it yet. Skepticism may be in order, as it is with anyone accused but not convicted of a crime, but Assange's guilt or innocence surely depends on the evidence, not on whether you approve or disapprove of WikiLeaks.

UPDATE: Reuters has more details here: "The two Swedish women who accuse WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual misconduct were at first not seeking to bring charges against him. They just wanted to track him down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, according to several people in contact with his entourage at the time."

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