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Arundhati Roy on Why She Admires WikiLeaks & Opposes Assange’s Extradition to the U.S.

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In Sweden, prosecutors are reopening an investigation into sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and are seeking his extradition to face charges in Sweden. Prosecutors had dropped the investigation in 2017 because they said the case could not proceed while Assange was holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he lived for seven years before being forcibly removed by British police last month. Assange has since been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail in Britain for skipping bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. Assange has denied the sexual assault accusations. Assange previously faced another sexual misconduct allegation but its statute of limitations expired in 2015. The United States is also seeking Assange’s extradition over the publication of leaked documents by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, which showed evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq. We speak with award-winning writer Arundhati Roy, who has criticized the arrest of WikiLeaks founder and Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange. Roy and other public intellectuals in India called for Assange’s immediate release, writing in a statement, “The journalism WikiLeaks and its Editor-in-Chief stand for is a journalism of outrage — outrage against the injustices and atrocities that take place round the world — but always with an eye to factuality, substantiation, and precision… If the U.S. had charged Assange and Wikileaks for publishing classified material, the legal case would have been no different from charging The New York Times with publishing the Pentagon Papers”.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So Arundhati, you are one of six public intellectuals in India who criticized the arrest of WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange in London last month. In a statement, the signatories of the statement called for his immediate release, writing “The journalism WikiLeaks and its Editor-in-Chief stand for is a journalism of outrage–outrage against the injustices and atrocities that take place round the world–but always with an eye to factuality, substantiation, and precision. If the US had charged Assange and Wikileaks for publishing classified material, the legal case would have been no different from charging The New York Times with publishing the Pentagon Papers,” the statement said.

AMY GOODMAN: In Sweden, prosecutors are now reopening an investigation into sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and are seeking his extradition to face the charges in Sweden. The U.S. is also seeking Assange’s extradition over the publication of leaked documents by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, which showed evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

So this latest news that just broke today—many people feel that Sweden has been under enormous pressure to say they have reopened an investigation on sexual assault and rape charges against Assange so that he will also be called back to Sweden and that ultimately, what he is most concerned about is being extradited to the United States. He has said he doesn’t want to be sent to Guantánamo Bay. Why have you gotten involved in this case? And these latest allegations today, do they concern you?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I met Assange a few years ago at the Ecuadorian embassy. I was and am an admirer of WikiLeaks. The trouble is of course that there is a sort of—these issues of sexual assault are separate, in my mind, from the idea of his extradition to the U.S. Now, I don’t know—I am unable to read what this new demand by Sweden is. Is it really to try him for rape, or is it because the U.S. feels it can get him extradited from Sweden easier than it can from England, from London? I don’t know. I don’t know.

But I think it is absolutely right that if you are going to send Julian Assange to Guantánamo Bay, then you are really attacking people who publish news that the world needs to know. Although the charge against him they are trying to say is that he was trying to help and encourage Chelsea Manning to hack into the Pentagon computers, which I think is a flimsy charge.

AMY GOODMAN: Many journalists are deeply concerned about this, because when they are working with a source and a source says, “How do I get this information to you?” it is very difficult when the government says, “You solicited this,” when a source is trying to be protected and trying to figure out the safest way to get information they feel is critical to understanding, in this case, war, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, State Department memos.

ARUNDHATI ROY: It’s outrageous, basically, because what about all of the documents that Snowden leaked? People have published them. Are they going to be put into prison? What about the people who helped Snowdon to escape? Are they going to be put into prison? Where does this end then? So it’s a very serious step. It’s not about Assange. It’s not about whether he’s a nice man or a not-nice man or whether he raped someone or didn’t. If he did, he should be punished for it. That’s a separate matter from this. And we oughtn’t to get into this mess about oh, would it be—is it OK because you like him or you don’t like him. It’s not about him as a person. I don’t know him personally. And if he has indeed raped somebody, he should be punished for that. But that is not the same thing as the WikiLeaks enterprise. And that enterprise concerns us all. All of us.

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