One would think so, from the unbridled hysteria displayed by government officials on two continents since Wikileaks released the first set of what is to date 1,532 diplomatic cables (out of a total of 251,287 in the organization’s possession).
Right now, Assange is still in Wandsworth prison, where he has been confined since December 7 after Swedish prosecutors issued an Interpol “Red Notice” for his arrest in connection with allegations of rape going back to the previous August. For much of that time Assange has been held in solitary confinement, under conditions that his lawyer describes as “Dickensian.” (And as deplorably as Assange is being treated, Bradford Manning — who has been held in Quantico, Virginia, for five months without being charged with any crime — is being subjected to far worse treatment.)
As most TMV readers probably know, two days ago Michael Moore posted $20,000 toward Assange’s bail, and several other supporters (among them, Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger) obtained sufficient additional pledges to meet the judge’s demand of 240,000 pounds (about $370,000). Yesterday, the bail request was approved, but Sweden has filed an appeal to keep Assange imprisoned until his extradition trial (Swedish authorities want Britain to extradite Assange back to Sweden so they can ask him questions about those rape allegations.). Hence, British authorities are refusing to release Assange until that appeal hearing takes place — according to this BBC News report, on Thursday. The extradition trial is due to begin on January 11.
Which means that Assange could be spending Christmas in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison. Keep in mind that Assange has not been charged with rape. He is only wanted by Swedish prosecutors for questioning. Rape is (obviously) a serious crime, and if Swedish authorities have reason to reopen an investigation that already was conducted and closed for lack of evidence that an arrestable offense had occurred, then they have the right to do so. But that does not justify treating Assange like he’s already been charged with a crime. Rape is a grave violation of a woman’s human rights and it should go without saying that it’s also an unconscionably under-reported and under-prosecuted crime. Nevertheless, as John Pilger points out in this excellent essay, Julian Assange has human rights, too — and it is no more acceptable for him to be held for weeks or months without charges, because of allegations that so far have not been sufficiently supported to justify charging him with a crime, than it would be for a judge to give a self-confessed rapist 10 years probation in lieu of any jail time. Indeed, Assange is being treated more harshly relative to anything he has actually done wrong than some instances of mass murderers.