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WikiLeaks' Assange requests new lawyer

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WikiLeaks' Assange requests new lawyer
Lawyer Leif Silbersky (inset) and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
17:51 CEST+02:00
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced on Tuesday that he would like to replace lawyer Leif Silbersky as his defence attorney.

Assange made the request in a letter to the Stockholm district court, in which he asked for lawyer Björn Hurtig to represent him instead. Hurtig has indicated that he would like to take over Assange's defence case. He believes that the district court's decision may come in the next few days.

"Of course I will take it upon myself to help him," said Hurtig.

The court said it would not make a decision on Assange's request to switch attorneys on Tuesday.

The letter, written by Johann Binning of due process organisation Rättssäkerhetsorganisationen (RO) by power of attorney, said that Assange no longer has any confidence in Silbersky.

The reasons are that he would not be sufficiently engaged with the case and that it was very difficult for Assange to get in contact with Silbersky. The representative's letter to the district court also referred to Assange's current situation.

"The context is drawing particular attention to his professional career, social situation and not least his ability to stay in Sweden, given that his residence permit application lodged with the Swedish National Migration Board [Migrationsverket] is in jeopardy if he does not receive an adequate defence," wrote Binning.

The district court has now sent the letter to Silbersky for comment. Silbersky has no sympathy for Assange's charges alleging the seasoned defence attorney hasn't focused enough attention on the case, but added he would willingly give up the case.

"I am undeniably somewhat surprised," he said.

"He is right that I am a very busy lawyer. But that I did not call him is absolutely false. I call people as soon as they get in touch even if it is a little later, as soon as I leave the courtroom."

Silbersky is one of Sweden's most famous lawyers and is known for taking on many high-profile cases that garner considerable media attention.

Recently, Silbersky has defended one of the main suspects in the helicopter heist trial three days a week.

"I have never bitten off more than I can chew in a case," he said.

"I am used to the opposite situation. I come into contact with people daily who want to bring me in."

Marianne Ny, director of the public prosecution authority, refused to comment on the latest in the investigation against Assange.

Assange's current whereabouts are unclear. He is suspected of assaulting two women in late August. One case is classified as rape, the other as sexual harassment and sexual molestation. Assange denies the crimes.

The case has attracted intense international attention because WikiLeaks recently leaked extensive secret information from the Pentagon about the US war in Afghanistan and photos of American soldiers killing unarmed Iraqis. Conspiracy theories have flourished that the US government is behind the charges.

Assange has also applied for residence and work permits in Sweden so that he can become the legally responsible publisher of WikiLeaks, which is hosted in Sweden. The move would grant him additional protection through Sweden's tough press freedom laws, which include heightened protection for controversial sources.

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