Assange hearing kicks off in London

Assange hearing kicks off in London

Summary: Julian Assange could face a trial behind closed doors, his lawyer has said during opening arguments over the Wikileaks founder's extradition to Sweden for questioning on sex crimes

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A two-day hearing has begun in London to determine whether Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden for questioning on sex-crime allegations.

Julian Assange Wikileaks

Julian Assange appeared in court in London on Monday over whether he should be extradited to Sweden. Photo credit: BBC

On Monday, Assange appeared at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in Woolwich before district judge Howard Riddle. Lawyers for both sides presented their opening arguments in the extradition hearing, which has attracted conspiracy theories suggesting the US government is working through the Swedish authorities to bring Assange into its jurisdiction.

Defence barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC told the court that Assange would face a closed hearing in Sweden if extradited, as is customary in rape trials there.

"Mr Assange... [would] stand trial in Sweden behind closed doors," Robertson said. "The Swedish custom and practice is blatantly unfair by European standards. [One] cannot have a fair trial when the press and public are excluded from the court."

Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities on allegations that he had coercive sex with two women in Sweden in August 2010. Marianne Ny, a public prosecutor in Gothenburg, Sweden, issued a European Arrest Warrant for Assange which was granted by the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in December 2010.

Robertson said that Assange would be unlikely to be granted bail in Sweden should he be extradited and go to trial there. In addition, the Wikileaks founder would be held incommunicado, "perhaps to soften him up for his interrogation", the lawyer suggested. Robertson said Assange would in likelihood be held in remand in Gothenburg, which has been criticised by European authorities for its treatment of remand prisoners.

In its skeleton argument, the defence argued that Assange could be extradited to the US if he was sent to Sweden. At the moment, US prosecutors are looking at whether Assange could be prosecuted on criminal charges over the publication by Wikileaks of confidential US embassy documents.

UK prosecutor Clare Montgomery, who was appearing for the Swedish authorities, told the court that there is no proof that Assange would be sent to the US if extradited to Sweden.

"The threat of extradition to the US featured prominently in [defence] submissions" Montgomery said. "So far as these complaints are concerned, they are dependent upon a factual hypothesis not yet established as being a real risk."

She also noted that the defence assumed that the UK would have no right to intervene in extradition proceedings between the US and Sweden, "whereas, in fact, the UK would be asked for consent" should the procedure take place. Both the UK and Sweden are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, she said, adding that if there is a "threat of a flagrantly unfair trial" in the US, the European Court of Human Rights would intervene.

Topics: Government, Tech Industry

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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3 comments
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  • I think the original prosecutors choice was the right one, they consented to have sex with him, they didn't complain till he dumped them. There is clearly co-operation between them after that, even to the extent of joining the two claims via the same lawyer.

    They also didn't make independent separate timely claims, so it isn't like the claim stems from the sex. More it stems from a discussion after the sex between the two of them a few days later.

    If they did (as claimed) seek to sell the story before making the claim, then that's conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and should be investigated, yet it isn't being investigated.

    Then we get to the extradition, that's just the failing of extradition treaties generally. The new ones don't require evidence just an allegation. It's a problem with the European ones and the UK-US one.

    As if accused people don't have the right to face their accusers before being taken from their country and sent abroad. He'd like to challenge the evidence, but it hasn't been offered to the court, he'd like to challenge the charges against him, but there aren't any. Just an allegation.

    It sucks, but he doesn't have any means to challenge this allegation, since the allegation is made via leaks to the press not as a charge offered to the court, so I think he will ultimately be extradited.

    But along the way it exposes the problem with Blair's treaties.
    guihombre
  • Surely, here's the bottom line: would he be guaranteed a fair trial outside the UK?

    Is there reasonable doubt that he WOULDN'T?

    Of course there is.

    Thus, he shouldn't be extradited.

    FYI, all the Wikileaks videos are on this hub:
    http://wikileaks.videohq.tv
    NewMatilda
  • Very well written and very insightful comment guihombre. I fully agree with you. And I would add:
    Humans have a natural tendency to trust, and to believe in what is around. This is what makes people think that there is being a trial and that there is such a thing as justice. Because if they did not believe in that imaginary world, their mental stability would crack up.

    This, and the whole Establishment is a huge crooked fallacy. All governments are corrupt down to the mallow bone, the Media are corrupt, the judiciaries are subject to the political cost of their resolutions. Above all reigns the personal interests, the traffic of influences, the "i owe you and you owe me", the strategies to get this by doing that., I ll let you have an interview with our puppet at the white house if you take some of our "guests" from Guantanamo. Do you think that politicians are educated honest people ? They are all individuals without any exposure to intellectuality, library life or ethics. They represent the worst of the masses and they are actors in a huge forged setup. For this, all political trials are just an entertaining circus. Assange was condemned and sentenced long before the trial started. This all is being arranged by telephone calls from DC to Downing Street, in something like " we want this **** [JA] extradited, sentenced condemned and sorry about whatever happens next, we were going to nuke Iran and this Assange has uncovered it all, he needs to be "neutralized," we agree on that, don't we ?" that is how things are decided, at a personal level by playing a game of interests, blackmailing and favoring.
    Governments join Neoliberalism, that is, no meddling from the State in the private business world. However, when the banks collapsed, then they were not supporting neoliberalism anymore, but they became pro-communist by requesting backup from the government.

    The banking system fell to break
    went to cry to papa State
    little shame, lots of cynicism
    in the funeral of capitalism.

    So, the governments bailed out the banks while the banks evicted people from their homes!
    So the profits are privatized while the losses are socialized. !

    This is a criminal ignominy and the governments couldn't care less about this insulting act. ! And there they are, they continue on TV lying and manipulating people. Day after day.
    This is a huge crooked fallacy, it is the complete madness of a rubbish Establishment, and it goes on getting worse and worse everyday.

    Therefore, Assange has already been condemned. Any expectation of justice can come only from the mind of a naive child.
    chooseausername