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ASSANGE EXTRADITION FIGHT

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Lawyer has ‘surprising’ news in Assange case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's lawyer Thursday said he had key information relating to the rape claims his client was facing which would be surprising when revealed, a report said.

Lawyer has 'surprising' news in Assange case

Baltasar Garzon, who spent hours in a briefing with Assange on Sunday discussing his legal strategy, said the defence had requested a prosecutor from Sweden travel to London to take a statement from the former hacker.

“I think that will be a very good option,” he was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

However, Swedish prosecutors on Thursday ruled out travelling to London.

“There is nothing new. We are still waiting for Mr Assange,” Helena Ekstrand, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, told AFP when asked about the comments of Assange’s lawyer Baltasar Garzon.

The 41-year-old Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June, is wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape and molestation, claims he denies.

British authorities won their case to extradite him to Sweden but because he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy they have so far been unable to send him there.

Assange believes Stockholm plans to hand him over to the United States, where he fears prosecution over WikiLeaks’ release of a vast cache of confidential US government files.

Garzon, best known for trying to extradite Chile’s Augusto Pinochet from London to Madrid in 1998, declined to go into specifics on the rape claims but said there was “fragmented knowledge” about the matter.

He reportedly said the defence was in possession of a number of fundamental elements about the allegations that when made public would be a “big surprise”.

“We cannot divulge them right now but we have requested that the prosecution take a statement from Mr. Assange,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in the Australian city of Brisbane.

Meanwhile, Garzon hit out at Australia, claiming Canberra had ignored requests by Assange for diplomatic assistance, including a letter sent as recently as 15 days ago.

He said the government’s response had been “entirely negative”.

“Not at any point in time have consular authorities visited Mr. Assange,” he said.

“And I understand that to be an obligation for all citizens of Australia.”

Australia insists it has offered Assange the same assistance it would give any other citizen in trouble overseas.

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JULIAN ASSANGE

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.

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