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George Galloway has been criticised by anti-rape campaigners after suggesting Julian Assange was accused of nothing more than "bad sexual etiquette". Mr Assange is wanted in Sweden to face allegations - which he denies - of sexual assault made by two women.
The Respect MP said the women's claims were "totally unproven" and the Wikileaks founder had been "set up". Rape charity Crisis said Mr Galloway's comments were "offensive" and "deeply concerning". Mr Assange remains in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has taken refuge, but the UK has said he will not be given safe passage to the Latin American country.
Mr Assange insists that he had consensual sex with each of the women who have made allegations against him. His legal team has said he wants assurances from the Swedish government that he will not be extradited to the US - where Wikileaks caused a storm last year by publishing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables and correspondence. Mr Galloway, a frequent critic of the US and UK governments, said Mr Assange's "only crime was to expose, through Wikileaks, malfeasance by states including our own and the US on a truly gargantuan scale".
In a thirty minute podcast, the controversial anti-war MP said it was "an extraordinary coincidence that public enemy one, Julian Assange, somehow gets inveigled with two women with incredibly complex political backgrounds who just, at the right time, come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him".
And somebody has to say this. The Bradford West MP suggested one of the women had claimed she invited Mr Assange back to her flat, had consensual sex with him and then "woke up to him having sex with her again - something which can happen, you know".
On the issue of whether this would constitute rape or not, Mr Galloway suggested that "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion". Rape Crisis said the MP's understanding of what constituted rape appeared to be "factually incorrect" and that if the woman concerned was asleep when the sexual encounter began, consent could not "reasonably" have been given.
Mr Galloway's description of such sexual violence as 'really bad manners' is offensive and deeply concerning.
There are differences in the law regarding rape in the UK and Sweden. In the UK, a rape has been committed if there is intentional penetration without consent and if the accused "does not reasonably believe" that consent has been given.
The maximum sentence is life imprisonment although Rape Crisis says the average sentence is four years. In Sweden, there are gradations in the legal definition of rape - each carrying different sentences. The most serious kind, involving major violence, carries a sentence of ten years. The concept of "regular rape", still involving violence but not of the most extreme kind, and "unlawful coercion", where for instance emotional pressure may have been applied, carry sentences of six and four years respectively.
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Legal differences. More on this story. Published 20 AugustWoman wants sex Galloway
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