Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Cambridge group raps Assange invite

Julian Assange will take part in an event at the Cambridge Union Society later this month via videolink

A planned speech by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at Cambridge University is an "insult to survivors of rape", a women's group has said.

Mr Assange will speak on a topic yet to be revealed followed by a question-and-answer session at the Cambridge Union Society (CUS) debating platform on November 27.

He will appear via videolink from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of rape and sexual assault.

But the Cambridge University Students' Union Women's Campaign has launched a petition against the move.

It follows a previous appearance by Mr Assange last year and an appearance in March by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was last year accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in a case which was later dropped.

Women's officer Susy Langsdale said the campaign was "deeply disappointed", and called on the CUS to withdraw Mr Assange's invite.

"Yet again, the Cambridge Union Society is enabling the rebuilding of the public persona of an alleged rapist," she said. "By inviting Assange, and Strauss-Kahn previously, the Cambridge Union Society are colluding in the horrific silence and shame around rape."

She added: "It is clearly the case that Assange will not be able to talk about anything legally affecting his case and will, most probably, turn any reference to the case into an attempt to talk about his own defence.

"The idea that this event will serve to seriously challenge Assange is arrogant and untrue. Yet again the voices of rape survivors will be undermined by the union as they offer their privileged platform to Assange again in an attempt to boost their own publicity."

A spokesman for the CUS said: "The union exists to provide a neutral forum for free speech, where members can explore ideas and pose challenging questions to some of the world's most prominent figures. Hosting a speaker does not imply endorsement or disapproval on the part of the society. We invite people to speak at the union regardless of their ideology or background."

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