No need to extradite WikiLeaks founder, court told

8th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Julian Assange could easily be interviewed by videolink over allegations of rape and molestation, a British court heard Tuesday as the WikiLeaks founder fights extradition to Sweden.

Assange was back in Britain's highest-security court for the final day of a two-day hearing to decide whether the former computer hacker can be extradited.

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.

Sven-Erik Alhem, a former Swedish prosecutor and now a legal commentator who appeared as a witness for Assange, said Ny could have questioned Assange via videolink from Britain and there was no need to extradite him for interview.

"I don't really understand why you could not hear Julian Assange here in this country, if the British authorities allowed such a hearing to take place," he told Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in southeast London through an interpreter.

He also criticised the case on the grounds that Assange was identified, as rape suspects in Sweden should not be; that rape suspects in general are kept without bail in Sweden; and that rape trials are held behind closed doors.

In the legal papers quoted by lawyers for the Swedish authorities, Ny said she made repeated attempts in September and October to contact Assange by phone and text message to set up an interview in Sweden but had no success.

She was quoted as saying that Assange's Swedish lawyer offered a telephone interview but Ny declined and warned him that she was going to issue a warrant.

"It must have been crystal clear to Julian Assange since the arrest warrant of September 27 that we were extremely anxious to interview him," Ny said, according to evidence.

Assange arrived at the court wearing a blue suit, white shirt and a red tie and waved cheerily to supporters in the public gallery as he made his way to the dock.

The 39-year-old Australian's defence team spent Monday's first day arguing that Assange would face a "flagrant denial of justice" if extradited over allegations of rape and molestation.

The judge is expected to defer his ruling in the extradition case until later this month. If the decision goes against Assange, he will be able to appeal all the way to England's supreme court.

Following the end of Monday's evidence, Assange claimed that a "black box" of accusations against him was being opened to inspection and that the claims of his alleged victims were "empty".

"I hope over the next day we will see that that box is in fact empty and has nothing to do with the words that are on the outside of it," he told the scrum of journalists from around the world following the proceedings.

His lawyer Geoffrey Robertson was expected to argue that Assange could face the death penalty if extradited on from Sweden to the United States on separate charges relating to the whistleblowing website.

The lawyer is also expected to argue that the extradition request was unacceptable because he has not been charged with any crime.

Having won worldwide notoriety for his website's release of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, Assange insists his real fear is that Washington will press Sweden to pass him on to American authorities.

Assange, who was arrested in London on December 7, faces a widening criminal probe in the United States having enraged Washington.

He was released on bail a week after his arrest and has been staying at a supporter's country mansion under strict conditions.

© 2011 AFP

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