Moore: Assange case masks Sweden's rape shame

Michael Moore has launched a scathing attack on the government of Sweden, accusing it of ignoring the plight of rape victims as it pursues a politically-motivated campaign against the WikiLeaks founder.

The US documentary maker, famous for films including Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, this week stumped up $20,000 towards Julian Assange's bail surety, proclaiming the Australian a "pioneer of free speech".

In an open letter to the Swedish government published today on Moore's website, the veteran agitator questioned the country's record of investigating and convicting those accused of rape, pointing to an Amnesty International report, which concluded that rapists "enjoy impunity" in Sweden.

Moore points out that the number of reported rapes in Sweden has quadrupled in the last 20 years, resulting in the highest per capita rate in Europe - while conviction rates have steadily decreased. In Moore's words:

"Message to rapists? Sweden loves you!"

The film-maker contrasts Sweden's failure to tackle sexual offences with the country's seemingly dogged pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder.

Assange faces extradition from the UK to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape, sexual molestation and sexual coercion made by two women.

While he doesn't go as far as making any assertion of Assange's innocence or otherwise, Moore characterises the way in which the matter has been dealt with as politically motivated.

Initial charges brought against Assange in August were dropped after prosecutors decided there was no case to answer - but the controversy was reignited after right-wing politician Claes Borgström intervened. Borgström, also a lawyer, now represents the two women.

No new charges have so far been brought against Assange, who nevertheless found himself placed on Interpol's 'most wanted' list.

The 39-year old's London-based solicitor, Mark Stephens, insists his client has never been informed of the allegations against him - an accusation which, if true, would amount to a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Moore also cites the view of US campaigner Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape:

"This tactic of using a rape charge to go after minorities or troublemakers, guilty or innocent -- while turning a blind eye to clear crimes of rape the rest of the time - is what I fear is happening here. I want to make sure that good people not remain silent and that you, Sweden, will not succeed if in fact you are in cahoots with corrupt governments such as ours."

Calling on Sweden to end its extradition attempt, Moore concludes:

"Unless you have the evidence (and it seems if you did you would have issued an arrest warrant by now), drop the extradition attempt and get to work doing the job you've so far refused to do: Protecting the women of Sweden."

Assange was released on bail by London's High Court on Thursday. He is due to appear in court again on 11th January, when extradition proceedings will resume.