National Security

WikiLeaks’ Assange releases his version of what happened in Swedish sex case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly six years.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly six years. AP

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Wednesday provided intimate details of what he termed a consensual sexual encounter in Sweden in 2010 that unfolded into a global legal tussle and a six-year battle on his part to escape confinement.

In a defiant bid to pressure Sweden to drop a presumed sexual assault investigation, which has led to Assange’s asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, the Australian released a 19-page statement that he gave a visiting Swedish prosecutor Nov. 14-15.

“I am now releasing my statement to the public,” Assange said in a separate note. “I want people to know the truth about how abusive this process has been.” He said he is “entirely innocent” of any wrongdoing.

The statement by Assange includes text messages allegedly taken from his sexual partner’s cell phone indicating what Assange said was “clearly consensual sex,” not rape.

He called on Sweden to drop the inquiry, halt his “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” and provide ironclad guarantees that it would not send him to stand trial in the United States, which Assange believes has an open criminal investigation against him.

From his refuge on the first floor of the embassy in London’s Knightsbridge district, Assange and his nonprofit WikiLeaks organization, which has published around 10 million secret emails and documents over the past decade, remain a thorn in the side of the U.S. government and U.S. politicians. In July, the group released internal Democratic National Committee emails, leading to the resignation of its chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

That leak, and a subsequent one of emails from the inbox of the chief of the Hillary Clinton campaign, John Podesta, proved damaging to Clinton’s ultimately failed presidential bid.

Assange said U.S. prosecutors desperately want to see him behind bars.

“In Alexandria, Virginia, a Grand Jury has been meeting behind closed doors for the past six years under case number 10GJ3793 to explore ways to imprison me and seven others,” Assange said, referring to other managers of WikiLeaks.

Assange said his fears are grounded in the prosecution of U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of espionage for leaking some 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013.

While details of Assange’s actions in Sweden in August 2010 have come to light over the years in news accounts, never have they emerged under his name and perspective.

Assange blasted Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny for pursuing the criminal investigation without seeking testimony from him and denying him the presence of a defense attorney.

“She has for more than six years refused to take my statement during which time she has done nothing to pursue the preliminary investigation,” Assange wrote.

WikiLeaks was under siege in the summer of 2010. Assange’s personal bank cards were blocked following the group’s publication of some 75,000 Pentagon documents related to the war in Afghanistan and in the run-up to the publication of some 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, he wrote.

Early in his visit to Sweden, Assange said a young woman came to hear him lecture, then joined a small group having lunch with him. He identified her only as S.W. He said she sought him out.

Assange said S.W. sent a cellular text message to a friend on Aug. 14 that read: “I want him. I want him.”

He said the woman, an employee of the National Museum, took him there. “At the Museum an IMAX film was playing, where she kissed me and placed my hands on her breasts,” Assange asserted.

Days later, on Aug. 16, Assange said the woman “invited me to her home” and “made it very clear that she wanted to have sexual intercourse.”

“During that night and again in the morning we had consensual sexual intercourse on four or five occasions. Her words, her expressions and her physical reactions made it clear to me that she encouraged and enjoyed our interactions,” Assange wrote.

The next morning, S.W. texted a friend: “JA did not want to use a condom.”

On Aug. 20, the woman called Assange from a hospital and asked him to come take a test for sexually transmitted disease (STD) so that she wouldn’t worry about infection, he wrote.

“She said that it was normal in Sweden to go to the police to get advice about STDs and that if I didn’t come down to the hospital she would go to the police to ask whether I could be forced to get tested,” Assange wrote. “I told her I found her mention of police strange and threatening.”

Assange said he was “certain she expressly consented to unprotected sex” and that a subsequent text message she sent to a friend indicated he had not forced himself upon her while she slept. “I was half asleep,” S.W. texted on Aug. 18, Assange said.

Assange portrayed other text messages from S.W. as indicating that Swedish police were eager to press charges against him over her opposition.

The woman, “while at the police station, wrote that she ‘did not want to put any charges on Julian Assange’ but that ‘the police were keen on getting their hands on him,’ ” Assange quoted the texts as saying, adding that she was shocked when they arrested him because she “only wanted him to take a test.”

The lawyer for S.W., Elisabeth Massi Fritz, told the Swedish TT news agency that “Assange seems desperate” and “the only thing I can say is that Assange has low credibility and we will prove this when we prosecute.”

Assange did not mention in his statement that he reportedly had sex with a second Swedish woman during the same period, and that she went to police alleging Assange had resisted wearing a condom.

The Swedish prosecutors’ office declined to discuss the case with McClatchy.

Assange said he’d endured four and a half years holed up at the embassy without sunlight and medical attention, and that Swedish prosecutors delayed coming to speak with him with the intent of prolonging his detention.

“You have subjected me to six years of unlawful, politicized detention without charge in prison, under house arrest and four and a half years at this embassy,” Assange said.

That period, he added, “is already far longer than the maximum penalty I could ever theoretically face in Sweden.”

No formal legal charge has been filed against Assange, who on Thursday begins his seventh year battling Ny’s arrest order, which England carried out on Dec. 7, 2010.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4