Prosecutor pressed to speed up Assange case
Published: 03 Feb 2014 17:15 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Feb 2014 17:15 GMT+01:00
The Swedish prosecutor handling the Julian Assange case lashed out on Monday to calls urging him to push on with efforts to interrogate the whistle blower over sex crimes allegations stemming from a 2010 visit to Sweden.
Assange, who is suspected of rape and sexual assault involving two Swedish women in connection with a visit to Stockholm in 2010, remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for the last 18 months.
But Swedish MP Johan Pehrson, legal policy spokesperson for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), said on Sunday there was no point letting such a case fester.
"This is an exceptional case," he said on the Agenda programme on Sveriges Television (SVT). "Which gets you thinking whether the prosecutor shouldn't take one more look at it and take care of it once and for all."
He added that the case had large political implications internationally, and that no one would benefit from it lying dormant. Other legal experts also joined calls urging Sweden's Prosecutor-General to take action in the case, with Anne Ramberg, the secretary general of the Swedish Bar Association (Advokatsamfundet), calling the past 18 months a "circus".
"But you have to be a bit pragmatic to put an end to such a circus. They should have headed to London to interrogate him," she told SVT.
Sven-Erik Alhem, a former Swedish prosecutor who gave evidence for the WikiLeaks founder, also agreed that it was time for action.
"The prosecutor should take responsibility now by asking how it all can be resolved," he said. "It's not reasonable to just wait month after month outside the embassy on the chance that Assange might leave."
Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer representing one of the women who accused Assange, said the case has nothing to do with prestige.
"I think he should be interrogated just like everyone else who is suspected of committing a crime in Sweden."
Meanwhile, Thomas Olsson, one of the attorneys who has represented Assange since 2011, said that interrogating the whistle blower in London was a reasonable demand and was the only rational thing to do in the situation.
Assange, 42, fears that if he leaves the embassy in London he will be extradited to the US via Sweden, where he may face a longer sentence for leaking official documents on WikiLeaks. He would have to wait in London for a further six years for the statute of limitations to run over for the sexual molestation charges.
Swedish prosecutors, however, refuse to handle the trial in London, stating that the investigation must be carried out in Sweden according to Swedish laws and regulations.
And comments made on Sunday by Perhson, who also sits on the Riksdag's Committee on Justice, prompted an angry response from Prosecutor-General Anders Perklev who labelled the statements as "remarkable".
"Johan Pehrson's statements can only be interpreted reasonably to mean that he wants to influence how this case is being handled," he said in a statement.
"The fact that an MP openly questions a prosecutor's decision-making in an individual case is remarkable. It violates the foundation of power division between the legislative and the executive authorities in Sweden."
The comments by Pehrson and other experts also left Elisabeth Massi Fritzlawyer, who represents one of the Assange accusers, seeing red, arguing that prosecutors "should not be subject to political pressure or let a media witch hunt affect their actions".