Lawyers: no need for Assange to go to Sweden

Lawyers representing WkiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a British court on Tuesday that there was no need to extradite the Australian to Sweden as he could just as well be interviewed over rape allegations by videolink.

Lawyers: no need for Assange to go to Sweden

Assange was back in Britain’s highest-security court for the final day of a two-day hearing to decide whether the former computer hacker can be extradited.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny wants to question Assange over allegations

he raped one woman and sexually molested another in the country — moves which he claims are politically motivated because of WikiLeaks’ activities in

releasing classified US cables.

Sven-Erik Alhem, a former Swedish prosecutor and now a legal commentator who appeared as a witness for Assange, said Ny could have questioned Assange via videolink from Britain and there was no need to extradite him for interview.

“I don’t really understand why you could not hear Julian Assange here in his country, if the British authorities allowed such a hearing to take place,” he told Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in southeast London through an interpreter.

He also criticised the case on the grounds that Assange was identified, as rape suspects in Sweden should not be; that rape suspects in general are kept without bail in Sweden; and that rape trials are held behind closed doors.

In the legal papers quoted by lawyers for the Swedish authorities, Ny said she made repeated attempts in September and October to contact Assange by phone and text message to set up an interview in Sweden but had no success.

She was quoted as saying that Assange’s Swedish lawyer offered a telephone interview but Ny declined and warned him that she was going to issue a warrant.

“It must have been crystal clear to Julian Assange since the arrest warrant of September 27th that we were extremely anxious to interview him,” Ny said, according to evidence.

Assange arrived at the court wearing a blue suit, white shirt and a red tie and waved cheerily to supporters in the public gallery as he made his way to the dock.

The 39-year-old Australian’s defence team spent Monday’s first day arguing that Assange would face a “flagrant denial of justice” if extradited over allegations of rape and molestation.

“The Swedish custom and practice of throwing the press and public out of court when rape trials begin is one that we say is blatantly unfair, not only by British standards but also by European standards,” Robertson added.

The judge is expected to defer his ruling in the extradition case until later this month. If the decision goes against Assange, he will be able to appeal all the way to England’s supreme court.

Julian Assange was arrested in London on December 7th. He was released on bail a week after his arrest and has been staying at a supporter’s country mansion under strict conditions.

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Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.