Assange lawyer says Swedish PM prejudices case

LONDON Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:57am EST

1 of 4. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves with his lawyers Mark Stephens (3rd L) and Jennifer Robinson (2nd L), after his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London February 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett

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LONDON (Reuters) - A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused Sweden's prime minister on Friday of damaging his client's chances of a fair trial for alleged sex crimes by portraying him as "public enemy number one."

Assange's lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, opposing a Swedish bid to extradite the Australian from Britain, said Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had created a "toxic atmosphere" in Sweden with what he said was an inflammatory statement about Assange.

The three-day hearing at the top-security Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in southeast London was adjourned until February 24, when Judge Howard Riddle is expected to rule whether Assange should be extradited.

Assange, a 39-year-old computer expert who infuriated the U.S. government by releasing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, is wanted in Sweden to face allegations by two WikiLeaks volunteers of sexual misconduct during a visit there last August. Assange denies the allegations.

"I have never been able to present my side of the story," Assange told reporters outside court. "We have been confined to procedural arguments about some abuses of process, the validity of a warrant on its face but not what propped it up."

Riddle refused Robertson's request for more time to present evidence of the damage he said Reinfeldt's comments had done to Assange's ability to get a fair trial.

On Tuesday, Reinfeldt hit out at criticism, made during the Assange hearing, of his country's legal system, and described the allegations against Assange as "very serious."

ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

Robertson said Swedes viewed Assange as "public enemy number one as a result of the prime minister's statement."

"He (Assange) has in effect been denounced as an 'enemy of the people'," he said.

One of Assange's accusers alleges he sexually molested her by ignoring her request for him to use a condom during sex.

The second woman says Assange had sex with her without a condom while she was asleep. Prosecutors say that amounts to the least severe of three categories of rape in Sweden, carrying a maximum of four years in jail.

Prosecutor Clare Montgomery contested the defense assertion that some of the allegations against Assange would not amount to an offence under English law.

"If a woman says to you: 'I only wish to have sex with you if you wear a condom', a person hearing that will understand that she is not consenting to have unprotected sex," she said.

"This is not a case of the police slipping under the bed clothes to interfere with private consensual acts. This is a case where the allegations (of one woman) would amount to rape under English law as well as Swedish," she said.

Montgomery also contested defense assertions that no violence was alleged to be involved. One woman's allegation that her clothes had been ripped off and necklace broken did constitute violence, she said.

Assange's lawyers argue that transfer to Sweden could be a stepping stone to extradition to the United States, where they say he could end up facing execution for leaking secrets.

Assange has been free under strict conditions since a British court released him on bail in December.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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Comments (17)
johne37179 wrote:
It is ironic how hard Assange and his team are working at avoiding justice for Assange.

Feb 11, 2011 8:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
NEWSTIME2010 wrote:
The “toxic atmosphere” from (Svenska Staten) The Swedish government and it’s legal authorities has been ongoing since the Swedish legal team and the Swedish prosecutor made the unbelievable mistake to release Assange’s name to the media in Sweden and World wide long time before the case was even established in a Swedish legal system.
In the first place the “existing allegations” are not “very serious” as anyone now can understand from the authentic documentations widely available. The Swedish justice system have since the first defamation of Assange (first published in the Swedish tabloid news paper)trying to conceal it’s own failure to avoid compensation to Assange. This is very serious!
The Courts in Sweden and England do not have more information in this case than the general public have in this current situation, both sides of the legal teams now are very aware about.

The Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask have urged Mr Assange “to turn him self in” a very ridicules suggestion as he more than less was “deported” from Sweden when his application for residence in Sweden was turned down and was staying an extra month in Sweden for the purpose to an interview. He was told he could leave Sweden!
This is an extraordinary distortion the Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt representing and on top of that using a language like Assange would be the “enemy of the people”. This is nothing more than a very ugly politics.

I really hope the lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig vill strongly oppose the Prime Minsters blunder and file a law suite for compensation for Assange ASAP, no matter what the English Judge will decide.

The result of that could actually lead to the Swedish Minister of Justice resignation, at least.

Feb 11, 2011 8:58am EST  --  Report as abuse
jalee wrote:
Assange reminds me of a spoiled child. He cannot admit any reponsibility for his actions, regardless of what they are. He is a narcissistic individual. As a result he is self-serving and pathetic.

Feb 11, 2011 9:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
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