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Assange should face Swedish justice, former backer asserts

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused U.S. President Barack Obama of exploiting the Arab uprisings for political purposes. Assange, who is hiding in an embassy in London, addressed a sideline meeting of the UN General Assembly via video conference.


Jemima Khan, a celebrity backer of Julian Assange who put up bail money for him, has gone public with her frustrations about the WikiLeaks founder, saying he demands "blinkered, cultish devotion" and should face justice in Sweden.

An article by Ms. Khan published on Wednesday on the website of British magazine The New Statesman gives an insight into how Mr. Assange, whose whistle-blowing website angered Washington by releasing thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, has alienated some of his staunchest allies.

Mr. Assange was arrested in Britain in December, 2010, on an extradition warrant from Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual abuse made by two women. After losing a protracted legal battle to avoid extradition, which went all the way to Britain's Supreme Court, Mr. Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London last June. He has been inside the building ever since.

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Ms. Khan, who first rose to prominence as an heiress but is now a campaigner and an associate editor of The New Statesman, described in her article how she had gone from "admiration to demoralization" on the subject of WikiLeaks.

"The problem is that WikiLeaks – whose mission statement was 'to produce ... a more just society ... based upon truth' – has been guilty of the same obfuscation and misinformation as those it sought to expose, while its supporters are expected to follow, unquestioningly, in blinkered, cultish devotion," she wrote.

Ms. Khan was executive producer of a documentary film about WikiLeaks entitled We Steal Secrets, which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States.

She said the film, directed by Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney, sought to present a balanced view of the WikiLeaks story but that Mr. Assange had denounced it before seeing it.

"When I told Assange I was part of the We Steal Secrets team, I suggested that he view it not in terms of being pro- or anti-him, but rather as a film that would be fair and would represent the truth," she wrote.

"He replied: 'If it's a fair film, it will be pro-Julian Assange.'"

Ms. Khan's article praised WikiLeaks for exposing corruption, torture, war crimes and cover-ups but criticized it for a "with us or against us" mentality that was detrimental to its cause.

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She wrote that she had found the timing of the sexual-abuse allegations against Mr. Assange suspicious, as they came at the height of the furor over the revelations on WikiLeaks, but had come to the conclusion the allegations had to be dealt with through Swedish due process.

"The women in question have human rights, too, and need resolution. Assange's noble cause and his wish to avoid a U.S. court does not trump their right to be heard in a Swedish court," she wrote, referring to Mr. Assange's fears that Sweden could be a first stop on the way to an espionage trial in the United States.

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