Sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes bad people do good things. I don’t know if Julian Assange is good, bad or somewhere in between. For about seven years now he’s been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The government of Ecuador became getting increasingly impatient with having him there. The ambassador claims he’s not the best-behaved house guest a person could want, and his patience got shorter and shorter as the country inched closer and closer to debt relief from the World Bank.
Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, called Scotland Yard last Thursday and asked them to take Assange away. They were more than happy to oblige. The Yard had a squad of surveillance officers watching the embassy twenty-four-seven- seven. That, as you can guess, is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for seven years. Day and night, in fair weather and foul, they watched the embassy doors hoping Assange would walk down to the corner store for a bag of chips and a can of Coke. It didn’t happen.
There are two nasty clouds hanging over Assange’s head. One is an accusation of sexual assault brought by two Swedish women. This is what he was running away from in 2012 when he took up residence in the embassy. Ecuador does not have an extradition treaty with either Sweden or the United States. As long as he was given sanctuary, he was safe. The other cloud is an accusation that he released a ton of files that governments would prefer to keep private.
There was never any question about the truth or accuracy of the files revealed through Wikileaks. No government ever denied the contents. They just didn’t want them brought into the cold light of day. Assange was the whistle blower. He exposed crimes committed by governments. He did not commit the crimes. At least, not those ones.
A crime he might have committed is rape. This is the deed that many of his supporters want to sweep under the rug. Assange has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. It is hard to assert that right while hiding in an embassy for seven years to avoid being brought to trial. The two women who say he raped them need to see justice being done. They need their day in court and should have it.
We are at one of those moments when we have to embrace two seemingly contradictory principles. We must believe the victims while presuming his innocence. It is unconscionable that charges of sexual assault will be set aside because the man who stands accused is the most famous whistle blower our world has ever seen.
To put it bluntly, Assange needs to man up and go to Sweden to either clear his name or suffer the consequences of his behaviour. Does he have the balls to do it?