Assange should have been allowed to 'give his version'

The Wikileaks editor should have been arrested by Swedish authorities after prosecutors decided to pursue rape allegations, so he could give his side of the story, a Swedish lawyer has told Assange's extradition hearing
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Julian Assange should have been arrested in Sweden as soon as a prosecutor there decided he should be questioned on rape allegations, according to a defence witness in the Wikileaks editor's ongoing extradition hearing.

Julian Assange rape extradition hearing

Julian Assange should have 'given his version' in Sweden over rape allegations, Sven-Erik Alhem told the extradition hearing. Photo credit: CBS News

Sven-Erik Alhem, a former Swedish prosecutor, told the second day of the hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court that Assange should have been allowed to give his version of events once it was alleged that he had had coercive sex with two women. 

"When [prosecutor] Marianne Ny decided to change the original decision not to prosecute [for rape]... in my opinion she should have made sure Assange should have been able to give his version of events in detail," Alhem told defence lawyer John Jones. "It's quite peculiar not to have both parties' versions of events as a basis for the prosecution and the courts involved."

Alhem added that, due to the serious nature of the accusations against Assange, he should have been detained. "If I understood correctly, he was suspected of rape, which means there were obligatory reasons for detention," he said.

Swedish authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in November at the behest of Gothenburg prosecutor Ny, after a different Swedish prosecutor had declined to issue a domestic arrest warrant for alleged sex crimes. Two women accused Assange of sexual coercion in August 2010, but Assange was neither arrested nor charged, and left the country on 27 September.

UK prosecutor Clare Montgomery, acting for the Swedish authorities, read out an account that stated Ny had informed Assange's Swedish defence lawyer Bjorn Hurtig on or before 27 September that Swedish police wanted to question Assange, yet he still left the country.

In my opinion, the Swedish prosecutor should have made sure Julian Assange should have been able to give his version of events in detail.
– Sven-Erik Alhem

Montgomery asked whether Alhem would have issued an arrest warrant in Ny's place; Alhem said he may have done, but he would have first sought an interview for Assange with British police leading the questioning and Swedish police present.

Alhem, who is not an extradition expert, said, in his opinion, Assange was not in danger of extradition to the US from Sweden.

The second day of the Assange hearing on Tuesday continued with a number of witnesses for the defence, which is trying to establish that Assange should not be extradited to Sweden. On Monday, defence witness Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a former judge, alleged that Ny was biased against men, a claim that was later disputed by the prosecution.

"[Ny] has a rather biased view against men for the treatment of sex offences cases," Sundberg-Weitman said. "She seems to take it for granted that everyone — men — being prosecuted are guilty."

Sundberg-Weitman told prosecutor Clare Montgomery that she had formed her views based on radio and television interviews, and from Ny's comments on the Swedish prosecutors' website. Montgomery asked whether prosecutors in Sweden have a duty to prosecute where they see fit, to which Sundberg-Weitman replied in the affirmative.

Sundberg-Weitman added that some of the media have portaryed Assange as a rapist, although he hasn't been charged with any crime, casting doubt on the possibility of a fair trial.

"Most people take it for granted that he has raped those women," said Sundberg-Weitman. "The mass media have turned rather hostile against Mr Assange."

Defence witness Goran Rudling, a Swedish blogger and legal activist, said that one of the women who had alleged rape — given the pseudonym 'Miss A' by the court — had erased posts on her Twitter account that were complimentary to Assange.

The posts were made shortly after the alleged crime in mid-August 2010. One asked if there was a "crayfish party" going on that Assange could go to, and another was a tweet in which Miss A alluded to being with "cool people". Police took a statement on 16 August, and the tweets were deleted on the 20 August.

Montgomery said that Miss A had deleted the tweets as she had wanted to avoid media attention after making her allegations against Assange.

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.
Editorial standards