Monday, December 6, 2010

Prisoner of Conscience

As a progressive Scandinavian country with liberal attitudes towards sexuality, Sweden is keen to promote condom use. The issue is taken so seriously, in fact, that if rumors of lack of use or of broken condoms reach Swedish prosecutors, you may be investigated for rape. And if you are, don't think of leaving the country! The prosecutors will want to interview, and offers of voluntary cooperation won't do. Only Interpol's list of most wanted international fugitives will do for someone suspected of such a grave crime. Once Interpol issues a red notice for you, you will most likely be arrested and denied bail. If you are sucesfully extradited, you will be held incommunicado in solitary confinement. Travelers beware!

The case of Julian Assange is tragically comic. As an effective dissident he has to be taken down. His lack of criminal behavior, however, proved problematic. Condoleezz Rice emphatically declared that Julian Assange has committed a crime. "It's up to the Justice Department to figure out exactly what crime it is," the former Secretary of State declared. The Europeans, at least for now, saved the Justice Department the humiliation of conducting a transparently political trial.

In the democratic west, Julian Assange is a political prisoner. WikiLeaks is under sustained attack. Its sites are under attack. Its accounts are being closed. Prominent American politicians are demanding it be declared a foreign terrorist organization. Julian Assange is the subject of death threats. The conflict over his fate is a conflict over the limits of democracy. If effective dissent becomes intolerable, free speech becomes meaningless. The war of the powerful on WikiLeaks must be resisted by everyone who values democracy and transparency.

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