He had just humiliated the US, heading up Wikileaks, the most controversial cyber operation in history. So when Julian Assange arrived in Sweden in August 2010 he was greeted like a conquering hero. But within weeks there was a warrant out for his arrest and he was being investigated for sexual crimes. An investigative exploration of this salacious and strange case, the film gets to the heart of a bizarre tale of international cat and mouse.
"Sitting outdoors with the world's coolest, smartest people! It's amazing!", Anna Ardin tweeted, as she sat at a barbecue she had arranged for Assange. Yet according to the allegations she would later bring against him he had recently sexually abused her. "You wouldn't send such messages if you had been raped by someone the night before", argues Assange's lawyer. Both Assange and his supporters believe the attempt to force his return to Sweden is simply the first step in a plan to see him extradited to the United States and that the case against him is a set up.
It's clear that when Assange arrived in Sweden Anna Ardin & Sofia Wilen were both enthralled by the Wikileaks phenomena and he slept with both women over a period of weeks. The charges originated with a misunderstanding in a Stockholm police station that "some sort of sex crime had been committed". Wilen refused to sign what had been taken down. Assange was interviewed but not charged with any offence. But 12 days after being given permission to leave the country, the case was re-opened and the Swedes issued a warrant for his arrest.
At this point Assange was at the height of his powers and three weeks later he delivered a massive hit against America: the Iraq War Logs. An outraged US labelled him a "traitor" and were overcome with calls to "shoot the son-of-a-bitch". Shortly afterwards Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest; a highly unusual move. "Red Notices are normally the preserve of terrorists and dictators. Even Gaddafi was not subject to a Red Notice."
After 500 days of fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden, Assange made his dramatic dash to the Ecuadorian embassy. In an interview from inside, Assange claims he had sensed the net tightening around him when, "the Swedish government publicly announced that it would detain me without charge in severe conditions. On the same evening security contractors turned up unannounced at 10:30pm and insisted on fitting another manacle to my leg".
Following the complex twists and turns of the entire saga, this documentary charts a case far more complex than the Swedes seem to be admitting to. When pressed about the strange manner in which the charges were brought the answer is baffling: "I can very well understand the confusion...it is very difficult to understand, well, exactly how it works." And as Assange's US lawyer points out, he should be worried. "I'd be very nervous, because if the United States get their hands on you, you're a goner."
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Andrew Fowler has worked for ABC Australia as a foreign correspondent and on the investigative unit for a number of years. Some of his most recent work for the Four Corners team includes, 'Flying Blind', 'Jacob Zuma and the French Connection', and 'A Dirty Business'. He has won the Silver World Medal at the New York International Television and Film Awards in the category of Australian National and International Affairs for his report on Somalia, 'Pirateland'.