BBC 4 radio host John Humphrys this morning scored the first broadcast interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange since his release on bail last week. Humphrys visited Assange at the East Anglia mansion in which he is holed up under strict bail conditions. The testy back-and-forth is dominated by discussion of the rape allegations leveled at Assange, and his refusal to return to Sweden to face questioning on them. While the meatier issues at the heart of WikiLeaks are given pretty short shrift, the interview is definitely worth a read or listen, providing a pretty fascinating snapshot of Assange’s current state of mind and what he believes his organization is achieving. A transcript and audio of the interview can be found on the BBC’s website here.
Humphrys opens with the rape allegations, and what he sees as a potential hypocrisy in how Assange has handled them.
Q: Everything you say may be true. I’ve no way of judging that. But, surely you can see how very, very damaging, at the very least, it is to somebody like you, somebody who has spent a large part of his life saying: “People are accountable. We must have systems that do transparency. We must have systems under which the public knows what’s going on and people can be held to account.” And here you are facing, possibly facing, very, very serious charges indeed, double rape even, is a possibility - and you are saying: “I will not go back to the country where those offences are alleged to have been carried out to face the music.”
JA: No, I have never said that.
Q: In that case you can catch the next plane back to Sweden.
JA: No, I do things according to proper process. I stayed in Sweden for five weeks to enable that proper process to occur. Proper process did not occur. I left as part of, you know, just my normal course of activity - no complaints from the Swedish government. I have an organisation to run. I have my people to defend. There are other things at stake here There are other things at stake here. I have a serious brewing extradition case in relation to the United States. I have a serious organisation to run. People affiliated with our organisation have already been assassinated. My work is serious. I do not have to run off to random states simply because some prosecutor is abusing a process in those states.
Assange believes the Swedish prosecution has leaked material to British newspapers (and, in a Times interview, he admonishes the Guardian for having cherry-picked from the supposed leaks).
JA: Most of what we know is, in fact, from the newspapers because somehow the Swedish prosecution has been, deliberately and illegally, selectively taking bits of its material and giving them to newspapers.
Q: Can’t you see that it’s a bit rum for you to be sitting there under these circumstances. You, Julian Assange, the Wikileaks man, who’s become terribly famous, as has your organisation, for leaking material that other people didn’t want to see published and here you are saying: “They’ve leaked something about me.”
JA: Not at all. We are an organisation that does not promote leaking. We’re an organisation that promotes justice
Q: You hardly discourage it when you print a couple of million private cables.
JA: that promotes justice through the mechanism of transparency and journalism.
Q: Based on leaks.
JA: When a powerful organisation that has internal policies, that is meant to be creating and following the law, i.e. Swedish prosecution’s judicial system, abuses its own regulation and its own position to attack an individual, that is an abuse of power.
Assange also says he believes the two women embroiled in the allegations may have been “bamboozled into this by police and others. These women may be victims in this process.”