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Details of rape accusations against Assange disclosed

Last modified: 12/9/2010 12:00:00 AM
An admirer was flattered to be invited to dinner with a man she considered a champion of free speech. Another woman supported the cause by lending her apartment to the same man, then returned early from her trip.

Both encounters reportedly resulted in sex. Now, after unleashing an unprecedented trove of U.S. government secrets, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is behind bars to answer questions about whether his conduct amounted to rape under Swedish law.

Sweden prides itself on gender equality and fairness, a tradition underpinning an interpretation of rape that often requires only a low level of coercion. A minor threat or force, such as pulling an arm, can be enough to result in charges.

Between heavily redacted Swedish police reports and details revealed Tuesday in a British court, the statements against the WikiLeaks founder allege he crossed the line by refusing to use a condom and by having unprotected sex while a woman was asleep.

Assange denies his actions amounted to rape, and his lawyers call the charges politically motivated. Under police questioning in Sweden on Aug. 30 about one of the accusations, the 39-year-old Australian confirmed the general outlines of the woman's story but appeared in the redacted transcript to insist that all of the sexual contact was consensual.

One of the women said in her statement to the police that she was obsessed with meeting Assange.

For two weeks after seeing an Assange TV interview, the 27-year-old woman sought out news reports about him. Then she learned he was giving a lecture in Sweden on Aug. 14.

She turned up in a bright pink sweater and sat in the front row - looking out of place amid a sea of journalists in somber suits.

She was invited to a post-lecture dinner, she said, and seated next to Assange. They flirted, she told the police.

She and Assange went to the movies, where she said they kissed. Two days later she brought him home.

But by then, she told the police, 'the passion and excitement had disappeared.'

On the train ride to her place, she said, Assange logged on to his computer and started reading about himself on Twitter. 'He paid more attention to the computer than to her,' the report said.

They got to her apartment at midnight - and what happened next 'felt very dull and boring,' she told the police. She later alleged, according to a British lawyer, that Assange pinned her down and refused to wear a condom.

The other woman's tale also emerges as one of casual, uninspired intimacy.

The 31-year-old, a feminist scholar who was working for the organization that hosted Assange's Aug. 14 lecture, let him use her apartment while she was away on a trip. But she returned early, on the eve of his lecture, and the two agreed he could stay.

That night, they went out for dinner, returned to her place for tea, and, she said, became intimate. Later, in the middle of the night, she claimed in the police report, Assange sexually molested her. In a London court Tuesday, a lawyer accused Assange of having unprotected sex with the woman while she was asleep.

Afterward, he stayed in the apartment for nearly a week.

During that time, the first woman tried unsuccessfully to reach Assange and, on Aug. 20, tracked down the apartment where he was staying. The two women got to talking.

After swapping Assange stories, they jointly contacted the police - and filed rape complaints.

Assange has denied the allegations in both cases and is fighting extradition to Sweden for further questioning. His British lawyer has said the suspicions stem from a 'dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex.' While unprotected sex cannot in itself be interpreted as rape in Sweden, sexual intercourse with a person who is asleep is considered nonconsensual.

Despite having the highest rate of reported sex offenses among 24 European countries - 47 per 100,000 citizens - Sweden sees only 10 percent of those cases lead to convictions, a 2009 European Commission-funded study found.

Eva Diesen, a lawyer and researcher at Stockholm University, said the low conviction rate is in part due to a lack of material evidence, and that's the case with Assange.

Since the complaints were filed in August, three prosecutors overruled one another on whether to open an investigation.


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