Launched in 2006, WikiLeaks had garnered worldwide attention in early 2010 with its massive release of classified US military documents sourced by Chelsea Manning. Assange won thousands of admirers, with many applauding his willingness to speak truth to power.
Yet the WikiLeaks co-founder gradually lost many of his allies. The rape allegations, stemming from a visit to Sweden in August 2010, played a major role in this and they are the reason Assange sought refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Assange and his legal team offered to travel to Sweden for questioning if it could guarantee he would not be extradited to the US, where he’s under investigation for his work with WikiLeaks. He also repeatedly offered to be questioned in London.
Swedish prosecutors refused to do so until November 2016, when Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren interviewed the WikiLeaks founder in the embassy.
Assange published his answers in December. The deadline for the Swedish prosecution to send a request to the Stockholm District Court in the Assange case was Friday, May 19.
Despite the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruling in February 2016 that Assange was “arbitrarily detained,” and ordering his immediate release, the UK refused to implement the order and subsequently appealed the ruling.
Assange and his legal team have maintained his innocence over the rape allegations, publishing detailed accounts of the incidents, including text messages from the women involved in the allegations.
Breakdown of the rape allegations
The crux of the rape allegations against Assange stem from two sexual encounters and the WikiLeaks’ founder’s reluctance to use condoms during them.
Assange had sex with two women, dubbed ‘AA’ and ‘SW,’ when he was in Sweden in 2010. The two women wanted Assange to get an STI test because they suspected he had unprotected sex with both of them.
The two women went to a police station to ascertain whether they could force Assange to take a HIV test, sparking an investigation that has plagued Assange for seven years.
Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017
Assange had what he described as “consensual” sex with ‘SW’ on August 16, 2010, after meeting her at a talk in Stockholm two days before. The two went to the cinema on the day they met, where they kissed.
“We had consensual sexual intercourse on four or five occasions,” Assange said. “Her words, her expressions and her physical reactions made it clear to me that she encouraged and enjoyed our interactions.”
According to SW’s police interview, after the two had dozed off one night, “she awoke and felt him penetrating her.” She asked if he was wearing a condom and said, “You better don’t have HIV.” ‘SW’ texted a friend on August 18 saying, “I was half asleep.”
“He was already inside her and she let him continue,” the police interview reads. “She didn’t have the energy to tell him one more time. She had gone on and on about condoms all night long.”
On August 20, Assange spoke to ‘SW’ who said she was at the hospital and wanted him to meet her there to get tested for STIs, so that she wouldn’t have to worry while she was awaiting for her own results. “HIV, for instance, needs months to show up,” Assange explained.
He told her he couldn’t do that until the next day. “She said that it was normal in Sweden to go to the police to get advice about STDs and that if I didn’t come down to the hospital she would go to the police to ask whether I could be forced to get tested.”
After agreeing he would meet her the next day to be tested, Assange was surprised to find out he had later been accused of rape.
According to police records of SW’s phone seen by Assange’s lawyers, ‘SW’ wrote from the police station that she “did not want to put any charges on Julian Assange,” but that the police were “keen on getting their hands on him.”
The next day she wrote she “did not want to accuse” Assange “for anything” and that it was the “police who made up the charges (sic).”
Assange stayed at AA’s home when he was in Stockholm, before he had sex with SW.
The two had sex, which ‘AA’ said was “so fast” and that Assange was rough and impatient. She said she wanted to reach for a condom but Assange wouldn’t let her. She told him she wanted him to wear a condom and then he let her reach for it, and wore it.
However, ‘AA’ said she didn’t see any semen in the condom and suspected Assange had broken it during sex.
Assange stayed with ‘AA’ for a few more nights and he attempted to come on to her again, including one incident where he rubbed his penis against her in the bed they shared, AA’s police interview says, but they had no further sexual relations.
‘AA’ said she went to the police largely to support ‘SW.’
“Anna states that she had consented to have sex with Assange, but that she would not have done so if she had known that he was not wearing a condom,” the police interview reads. “Anna does not desire any contact with a crime victims service, but will get back to us if she feels the need.”
Assistant Prosecutor Maria Kjellstrand ordered Assange’s arrest after police reported the women’s visit. The two women were interviewed and Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne found SW’s case should be closed, and AA’s allegations of molestation would continue to be investigated. “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever,” she said.
Lawyer and politician Claes Borgstrom announced he was representing the two women and sought a new prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
Assange went to a police interview on August 30 and two days later, Ny announced she was reopening SW’s case and expanding AA’s case.
Assange’s legal representative requested whether he could leave Sweden and, on September 15, the prosecutor said he was free to leave. Assange left Stockholm on the September 27 and his laptops were seized from the airport by Swedish intelligence.
Prosecutors asked to interview Assange on September 28, but at that stage Assange had left and the prosecutor ordered his arrest. Assange was working with the Guardian on the upcoming ‘Iraq War Logs’ release, and offered to come back on October 10 for an interview, but this was rejected for being too far into the future.
On November 30, two days after WikiLeaks began publishing Cablegate, US diplomatic cables, Swedish prosecutors requested Interpol issue a ‘red alert’ arrest warrant to 188 countries for a “preliminary investigation,” and on December 2, a European Arrest Warrant was issued.
On December 7, Assange presented at a UK police station, and was arrested and placed in solitary confinement at Wandsworth prison. He was released after 10 days and placed on house arrest with an electronic tag. Assange challenged the arrest warrants in court but lost in the UK Supreme Court in 2012.
Assange applied for asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19, 2012. Metropolitan Police say there is a British warrant for Assange’s arrest after “failing to surrender to the court” in 2012, and the force “is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.”
It said Assange is now wanted for a “much less serious offense” than the original sex crimes claims, and police “will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense.”