George Galloway, the well-known British politician, is under fire after he defended Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Galloway, the UK Respect party's MP, said that the claims of sexual offences against Assange in Sweden do not constitute rape.
In a video podcast, he condemned what he described as Assange's "sexual behavior" as "disgusting." Galloway added that Assange's actions may just have been "bad manners."
Salma Yaqoob, the leader of Respect party, rebuked Galloway's remarks as disappointing.
“Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong,” she said in a statement.
Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since last June to avoid extraditions to Sweden, is accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden in 2010. He is wanted by the Swedish judicial authorities for questioning.
"I don't believe, from what we know, that the Director of Public Prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain. What occurred is not rape as most people understand it,” Galloway added
He hinted that the claims against Assange are politically motivated. "And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it." However Yaqoob said “there are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange.These issues cannot be used to diminish in anyway the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty.
"By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.”
In a statement issued after Yaqoob “ s remarks, Galloway insisted the claims against Assange’’ would not have led to prosecution in Britain and had "all the hallmarks of a set-up".
He added, "No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There's no doubt about it and that has always been my position. But, if my remarks on the podcast need clarification, I am happy to do that.”
Assange had repeatedly made clear he was ready to go to Sweden to face questioning, if they guarantee he will not then be extradited to the US.
"It is not denied that Assange had consensual sex with woman A on August 14, 2010, and similarly with Miss W three days later. She even hosted a party for him the following evening," Galloway said.
"Over the next three days, the women met up and talked to a journalist about the events. On August 20, both went to a police station, not to allege rape, but to see if it was possible to force Assange to have an HIV test.
"An arrest warrant was issued and then withdrawn, with a chief prosecutor saying, 'I don't think there is reason to suspect he has committed rape'."