Here’s a job I never want to have as a parent: speaking on my son’s behalf in answer to highly publicized rape charges. It’s a task Christine Assange, mother of jailed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has taken on as her son’s goes through another grueling bail hearing today.
Christine Assange spoke with Julian yesterday, and jotted down his comments. Today she shared them with the Australian news media. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Ms. Assange quotes her son saying:
“My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them,” he wrote.
“If anything, this process has increased my determination, that they are true and correct.”
Ms. Assange also spoke on her own belhalf, saying, “As a mother, I am asking the world to stand up for my brave son.”
Her words came at a key time for Assange: a hearing today determined whether a British court would allow Assange to go free on bail in Britain or remain in jail while Sweden seeks to extradite him on sexual assault charges.
The British court initially granted Assange freedom with a steep bail and strict conditions, but when Sweden said they’d appeal the decision, the judge decided to keep Assange in jail for 48 hours, when there will be another hearing.
Assange’s imprisonment has dominated dinner table conversation for a week. He’s widely believed to be a political prisoner, though the charges against him have nothing to do with Wikileaks or his political identity as the Robin Hood of government data.
Essentially, he’s being charged with date rape. Of course I consider him innocent until proven guilty, as I would anyone charged with a crime. But at the risk of disappointing Julian’s mother, I’m not waving banners of support for him either. The two women who’ve accused him of sexual assault appear to be credible witnesses, and the Swedish prosecutors think they have evidence that a crime was committed.
It’s not my job to decide who’s right or wrong here; that’s for the courts. As Kate Harding nicely sums up for Salon, we don’t know what happened between Assange and the women who’ve accused him.
The fact is, we just don’t know anything right now. Assange may be a rapist, or he may not. His accuser may be a spy or a liar or the heir to Valerie Solanas, or she might be a sexual assault victim who now also gets to enjoy having her name dragged through the mud, or all of the above. The charges against Assange may be retaliation for Cablegate or (cough) they may not.
I can’t imagine what I’d do in Ms. Assange’s shoes. Probably the same thing she’s doing: side vehemently with my child and use the media attention to ask the whole world to cheer him on with me. That’s my mom-self speaking.
But as a feminist and a survivor, I’m as upset as Kate Harding at the way my friends (and plenty of media pundits) have rushed to call Assange’s imprisonment political. Just because you love Wikileaks doesn’t mean it’s founder can’t possibly be guilty of a sex crime. Or that he should get a pass if he did force himself on a date.
Photo: Adam Fuer