So today the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, by appointment, attended a police station, and was arrested. So far, so routine, but then Assange appeared before Westminster magistrates’ court and was refused bail, despite there being several people present who were prepared to provide surety.
Together with Assange’s detention, Visa and Mastercard have joined PayPal in refusing to process payments to Wikileaks. Many politicians and talking heads across the USA are denouncing Assange and calling for him to stand trial there, probably under the 1917 Espionage Act.
The prosecution in the attempted extradition of Assange to Sweden, where there is no jury system, partly based its objection to granting bail on their assertion that Assange did not surrender himself, even though he did. And all the while, Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Assange’s home country of Australia, far from fighting her citizen’s corner, is talking of cancelling his passport.
That’s a hell of a diplomatic firestorm over an alleged sex crime – especially as there is apparently no equivalent in UK law. More likely is that governments across Europe and elsewhere are being leaned on, and not necessarily just by the US. After all, were this only about allegations of unprotected sex and coercion, few outside the courtroom would know, or want to know.
What the Assange case tells us is that several Governments have been badly embarrassed by the Wikileaks revelations – which will carry on whether their founder is in custody or not – and it has been decided that someone has to get guilty pour encourager les autres.
It reflects particularly badly on those who claim to support freedom of the individual, and of information, while baying for blood when the information thus freed is not to their taste.