Assange: ‘drop the charges’ is wrong

12 December 2010


I’ve been too busy to follow much of the storm over Wikileaks and Julian Assange’s arrest (except for occasionally whingeing that it knocked the occupation & protest movement off the top item on the Guardian site).

But last night I saw this – a letter of support for Assange from such luminaries of bonkers leftism as John Pilger and Craig Murray. Worse, signatories include Lindsey German and Salma Yaqoob, both self-proclaimed feminists, or at least supposedly involved in women’s rights campaigning.

What’s wrong with the letter isn’t clear until the end. Pretty much all socialists can agree with the first section, and should. But then we get to:

We demand his immediate release, the dropping of all charges, and an end to the censorship of WikiLeaks.

My first thought: heaven help any woman who is raped by a famous leftist. Or anyone famous leftists like. Echoes of Roman Polanski here or, perhaps more fittingly, Gerry Healy.

Let’s be clear. You can believe Assange is innocent. You can believe it might be a put-up job by his enemies. You can talk about his potential extradition to the US, and what that might mean for whistleblowers. You can, and should, make the point that it’s kinda strange that Interpol only give a fuck about rape when the alleged rapist is a thorn in the side of pretty much every government, an international irritant.

What you cannot do, and claim to be a feminist, or a supporter of women’s liberation, or even a left-winger of any stripe, is call for charges to be dropped. We argue all the time that rape should be taken more seriously by the cops, the courts and the politicians. Dropping that as soon as someone you like is accused of rape is a betrayal, and one that burns coming from such high-profile media lefties.

It’s suspiciously good timing. But while we must investigate and expose any unfair or extra-legal decisions during it, Julian Assange must face due process.