George Galloway has defended his claim that Julian Assange's alleged crimes did not “constitute rape” - by refusing to back down.
In a statement released on Tuesday as an attempt to 'clarify' his remarks, the MP for Bradford West defied his critics, saying "what occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it."
Galloway's comments were condemned by Rape Crisis as "offensive and deeply concerning".
But in his latest comments, Galloway said the allegations had "all the hallmarks of a set-up."
"I don't believe, from what we know, that the Director of Public Prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain," he added.
The Respect party MP was criticised on Monday after describing Assange's alleged attack as "bad sexual etiquette" in his podcast, Good Night with George Galloway, posted on YouTube.
Assange is accused of sexual molestation, unlawful coercion and penetrating a woman while she slept.
Around 21 minutes into the podcast, Galloway said: "You decide what this is about. If you can't, you probably ought to be watching CBBC.
"What I am going to say is going to be controversial, because somebody has to say this. A reign of intellectual terror has descended on this subject."
He added: "Let me tell you, I think that Julian Assange's personal sexual behaviour is something sordid, disgusting, and I condemn it.
"But even taken at its worst, the allegations made against him by the two women – and I'm not even going into their political connections, I'm going to leave that for others and for another day."
Dr Amy Russell, Deputy Director of Leeds University's Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies told The Huffington Post UK Galloway's comments were hurting women.
"The conviction rate for rape is disgustingly low in this country and while the legal system is fundamentally flawed very few rapes even get reported. The under-reporting of rape can be attributed to attitudes like Galloway's; that disbelieves rape survivors.
Women are doubted and questioned if they have engaged in certain activities, especially drinking and they are rarely believed when they have previously had sex with the person who then rapes them. Stranger rape is a very uncommon occurrence - most rapes happen between people who know each other.
"Julian Assange's politics are a separate issue to his behaviour towards these women and the two should not be confused in an attempt to defend him. "
Respect party's leader Salma Yaqoob condemned the comments, saying in a statement they were "deeply disappointing and wrong."
"There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange.
"These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him."
A spokesperson for Rape Crisis told The Huffington Post UK "nothing in Galloway's statement seems to contradict his original assertions that certain types of rape are not, in his opinion, 'real'.
"We would urge any woman or girl whose life has been affected by sexual violence to visit our website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk for details of their nearest confidential and independent Rape Crisis services."
- What Does Reaction To Julian Assange's Alleged Crime Tell Us About Attitudes To Rape In The UK?
- George Galloway: 'The Julian Assange Sex Crime Allegations, If True, Are Not Rape'
GEORGE GALLOWAY'S FULL STATEMENT
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.
Julian Assange, let's be clear, has always denied the allegations. And this has all the hallmarks of a set-up. 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. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it.
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. 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 prosector saying, 'I don't think there is reason to suspect he has committed rape.
Assange was questioned by Swedish police but denied the allegations. However on September 1, 2010 the case was unexpectedly re-opened by the Director of Prosecutions who sought to have Assange extradited – not to face charges – but for further questioning. This was eventually granted by the British court, which surely must be unprecedented that someone could be extradited simply for questioning, rather than to face prosecution!
Julian Assange has said repeatedly that he would return to Sweden for questioning and to contest any charges that might result if Britain and Sweden would provide guarantees that he would not be extradited to the United States, where he could face 100 years in solitary confinement over his part in Wikileaks, like the punishment now awaiting Bradley Manning. What is preventing the two governments doing this? I think we know.