Letters to the Editor I was asked to express my views on the predicament in which Julian Assange finds himself. It is something I had been avoiding because I felt I did not know enough. I am still not sure I know enough. I am not going to comment on the specific rights or wrongs of what he has done or might have done either.
However there are some general issues that I do have strong views about. I would like to know what other people think too.
I believe everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence.
If you wish to prosecute someone for wrong doing then the case against them must be strong enough to hold some reasonable prospect of conviction. Charges should not be able to be laid and then dropped and then reinstated - except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
Detention cannot be for a purpose other than the charges which have been laid.
Until someone has been tried, convicted and sentenced they should have a right to free access to their defence team.
Anyone reading this will see where it is headed. The charges of sexual assault against Julian Assange are serious. He is entitled to a presumption of innocence. The charges were laid and then dropped and then reinstated. Questions can rightly be asked about why this was done and whether it should have been done. Were there exceptional circumstances that related to the charges being laid? Is he being detained because of the charges laid or for some other reason?
Is he being given the same access to his defence team as any other person in the same circumstances?
The answers to those questions will come in time.
Wikileaks is a different story and it must be treated as such. Whistleblowers are generally unpopular but Julian Assange is just one such person. There are others involved, even with Wikileaks. The media is also involved. Silencing Assange will probably not silence the leaks.
Assange may end up achieving the opposite of what he intended. The flow of information to the media will be reduced. The media will be more cautious about what it publishes. Those in high places will be more cautious about what they say and to whom they say it. They may also revert to using paper more often.
What all this means for the idea of "free speech" will depend largely on what all those involved do next.