Police-victim link report 'very serious': Assange lawyer
A report that a Swedish police officer involved in probing sex-crimes allegations against Julian Assange was friends with one of his accusers raises "very serious" concerns, the WikiLeaks founder's lawyer said Thursday.
"If it is true, then it is highly inappropriate," Assange's Swedish defence lawyer Bjoern Hurtig told AFP.
The Expressen daily reported Thursday that an unnamed woman officer in charge of questioning the two alleged victims, who have accused Assange of rape and molestation, had Internet contact with one of them more than a year before the case surfaced last August.
Police could not be reached for comment on the report, but the alleged victims' lawyer Claes Borgstroem told AFP without elaborating that "there are numerous faulty facts" in the Expressen article.
"This is a minor matter. It has no impact on the case and lacks any interest for the continuation of the case," he insisted.
Hurtig however said that while he would wait to draw any final conclusions until the report had been confirmed, he added that if it was proven that Assange's first interrogation was not objective, "then there was really no grounds for the investigation to begin with, and perhaps the whole probe needs to start over."
He said he would request information on whether the officer and one of Assange's accusers had also been in telephone and text message contact during the course of the investigation.
The woman officer, who like the alleged victim referred to by a London court as Miss A was active in the Swedish Social Democratic Party, had also continued posting negative comments on Facebook about Assange, and had voiced support for the lawyer representing the two women, Expressen reported.
"Go Claes Borgstroem!" she wrote in one posting last month after the women's lawyer had discussed the case on Swedish public radio, while describing Assange in another post as "the bubble that is ready to burst".
Expressen pointed out that the officer in question must have realised as soon as the two women came in to provide statements last August that one of them was her acquaintance and co-party member, but she had not removed herself from the case and had instead gone on to interrogate the second alleged victim.
Neither of the victims had reportedly wanted to press charges against Assange but had instead gone to the police to find out if they could force him to undergo an HIV test after he had unprotected sex with them, despite their explicit request he use a condom.
According to media reports, it was one of the police officers involved in the interrogations who deemed what they had been through amounted to rape in one case and sexual molestation in another and took the matter to a prosecutor.
It remained unclear Thursday if the friend of the alleged victim was the officer who reported the matter to the prosecutor.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian former hacker, is awaiting a British appeal hearing on whether he can be extradited over the allegations after a London court last month ruled he could be sent to Sweden.
During those proceedings, Assange's lawyers blasted the Swedish judiciary and claimed the allegations were motivated by anger at WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
On August 20 last year, Expressen was the paper that first reported prosecutors had opened a rape investigations of Assange, and the WikiLeaks founder has in the past criticised the paper and its reporting methods.
According to uncensored police reports on the case, leaked onto the Internet and viewed by AFP, Assange voiced concern when he was first questioned that his comments would be published in Expressen.
© 2011 AFP