WikiLeaks founder (and aspiring talk show host and soon-to-be 'Simpsons' character) Julian Assange is in court today for his final appeal against extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes. Seven judges of the United Kingdom's supreme court will hold two days of hearings to determine whether the Swedish public prosecutor seeking Assange's extradition had the legal power to do so, as lower courts have ruled. The judges are expected to reserve judgment at the hearings' conclusion tomorrow and announce their conclusions in several weeks. If the Supreme Court rejects his appeal, Assange will still be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, but if that court declined to take the case, he's off to Sweden.
For more on Assange and the fix he's in, don't miss Rolling Stone's must-read interview with him. Contributing editor Michael Hastings spent three days with Assange just before Christmas in an undisclosed location in the UK, where the Australian hacker-activist was under house arrest. They covered a lot of ground, including the future of WikiLeaks (and of journalism), Bradley Manning, the scoops he's pulled off, his childhood in Australia, whether he's "fucked," legally speaking, and much more. Here's a excerpt:
What happened in Sweden with the two women who have accused you?
It's before the court, so I can't discuss the case. It is very difficult, being in the position where you can't tell your version of events. It's clear that the matter is absurd, and you can read all about what the prosecution says its case is on the Internet.
By calling it absurd, aren't you implying that these women are making it up?
That's not what I said. I've never criticized the women. I'm saying the allegations are absurd. People can read the allegations for themselves. They're not correct, but even as stated, they are absurd. What the prosecution successfully managed to do is use the word "rape." Although I've not been charged – and technically what they are investigating is called "minor rape," a Swedish concept – that hasn't stopped our opponents from constantly referring to "rape charges," which is false. Back when we last did a survey, in February, there were a total of 33 million references on the Internet to the word "rape" in any context, from Helen of Troy to the Congo. If you search for "rape" and my name, there were just over 20 million. In other words, perceptively, two-thirds of all rapes that have ever happened anywhere in the world, ever, have something to do with me.
So why not say, "Look, I did nothing wrong, but I'm sorry if I upset these people. These are very serious things, and I'm taking it seriously, and I'll come to Sweden and face these allegations." People who support you wonder why you haven't done that.
I have no faith in the Swedish justice system being just. The International Prison Chaplains Association says that Swedish prisons are the worst prisons in Europe. That covers even Romania, Estonia and so on. That's because in 47 percent of cases, prisoners in Sweden are held incommunicado. So to the degree that my ability to act would be severely if not completely eliminated by entering into a Swedish prison, I am concerned about it. In addition, if you criticize matters, such as that Swedes have the worst prison system in all of Europe, then it would be the worse for you, because the Swedish justice system will take its revenge.