Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, leaving Royal Court of Justice on July 13th, 2011

(update below)

A former Swedish prosecutor has written an op-ed for the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, where he suggests the country’s office in charge of pursuing the case against WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange terminate it entirely.

Rolf Hillegren urges the Prosecutor General to reverse the decision to reopen the investigation, revoke the detention order and withdraw the arrest warrant.

For three years, Sweden has been trying to have him extradited so he can be questioned on sexual allegations made by two women. He sought and obtained asylum from Ecuador and has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in the United Kingdom since June 2012.

Hillegren’s op-ed is in Swedish, but he does not think Sweden needs to extradite Assange to question him. The evidence for the case leaked, and it is unlikely that an interview will yield anything that would make it possible to prosecute him.

“Is it reasonable that someone in an embassy in London has no way for the next 27 years to leave the building, whilst the Swedes could remedy the situation without significant disadvantage to anyone?” Hillegren asks.

He summarizes: “Julian Assange visited Sweden in 2010 as a celebrated hero. But the visit had repercussions he hadn’t counted on. Two women he’d spent time with were worried they’d contracted HIV and therefore went to the police, the one to support the other. The police decided to open a criminal complaint, so Assange was arraigned, arrested, and interrogated. The prosecutor closed the investigation as far as the more serious allegation; what was left was an accusation of molestation, even that one very questionable. Assange stayed in the country a while after the warrant was rescinded. So no, he did not try to evade ‘Swedish justice.’”

Hillegren adds, “The situation between Assange and the women mostly involves disagreements about the use of condoms – a type of litigation that is not usually decided in our courts.”

He does not fail to recognize that the women, who have made allegations against Assange, have suffered. Yet, for them, Hillegren suggests that Sweden do what it should have done a long time ago and take responsibility with an unconventional solution.”

Pay the damages that would have been awarded if Assange had been “convicted of crimes” for which he was detained. This will avoid a end scenario where the women are “sidelined by the judiciary.”

“This solution is appealing, not least in view of the State’s responsibility for the situation and the fact that women undeservedly suffered a well publicized injury,” according to Hillegren.

The case was closed in 2010 and then reopened. Hillegren asserts that this decision to close the case was reasonable.

The op-ed is significant, obviously, because of the background of the author. Hillegren has some authority to express an opinion that Sweden should have terminated the case long ago. But will this have any effect on Swedish authorities?

What would it mean for Assange if the case were terminated by Swedish authorities?

One would think that after all the time he has spent in the Ecuadorean embassy, he would want to take advantage of asylum and go to Ecuador.

Even if the Swedish case was terminated, it is unlikely that Assange would believe he had the freedom to move without being targeted by the United States.  His lawyers are still advising him that the US may indict him on charges.

Translation of Hillegren’s op-ed here.

Update

Rolf Hillegren made comments about rape in 2009 that led him to be condemned. Commenting on new guidelines for rape cases, he said, “When one says rape one thinks mostly of really nasty rapes. But take a man and a woman who know each other and the woman says she doesn’t feel like it today, but the man just goes ahead anyway. Sure, it is not very nice, but maybe not worth two years in prison. It is more like a regulatory offense.”

Peter Sunde, who is one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, reported him to the Ombudsman of Justice.

Photo by acidpolly, used under Creative Commons license