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Swedish judiciary 'independent': Reinfeldt

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Swedish judiciary 'independent': Reinfeldt
16:29 CET+01:00
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday said the description of Sweden's judiciary system presented by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's defence lawyers was untrue.

"It is unfortunate. We have an independent judiciary," Reinfeldt told reporters at parliament.

On the first day of a hearing in London Monday on whether Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and molestation, his lawyer Geoffrey Robertson blasted the Swedish handling of rape cases, saying his client's human rights would be violated in the Scandinavian country.

"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 said.

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.

Reinfeldt said Tuesday "it is unfortunate that women's rights and standpoint is taken so lightly when it comes to this kind of question compared to other types of theories presented."

"I can only defend what everyone in Sweden already knows: that we have an independent, non-coerced judiciary," he was quoted by the TT news agency as saying.

Reinfeldt rejected the notion that Assange's human rights would be violated in a Swedish rape trial.

"Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you hear when (a lawyer) trying to defend a client gives a condescending description of other country's legal systems," he said.

"But everyone living in Sweden knows that is not in line with the truth."

"Let's not forget what is at stake here: It is women's right to get a hearing on whether they have been the victims of abuse," Reinfeldt said.

"I find if very regrettable that (Assange's defence team) in this way is trying to... make their rights appear worth very little," he added, hailing the fact that "in Sweden we have come far when it comes to clearly showing we will not accept sexual assault or rape."

Attorney Robertson has also argued that Assange risks being extradited on from Sweden to the United States on separate charges relating to the whistleblower website and could face the death penalty there.

He has also said the extradition request was unacceptable because Assange

has not yet been charged with any crime.

The alleged victims' lawyer, Claes Borgström, said he understood "it is in Assange's interest to try to divert attention from what he is actually suspected of," but stressed to AFP that "it is completely out of the question that he would not receive a fair trial in Sweden."

Borgström said claims that the case against Assange was politically motivated were "ridiculous".

"Is there no limit to what they will say?" he asked, also rejecting the notion that Sweden has exceedingly strict laws for rape and sexual assault.

"The laws look about the same across the EU, and British law actually goes a little further than Swedish law," he said.

Sweden's top prosecutor Anders Perklev also jumped into the fray to counter harsh criticism at the hearing of prosecutor Ny for her handling of the case.

"Marianne Ny has acted in complete accordance with her role as public prosecutor and she of course has the authorisation needed to make the decisions made in this case," he said in a statement.

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