Sweden slams appeal bid by WikiLeaks' Assange

13th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Lawyers for Swedish prosecutors accused the legal team of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange of having a "19th century" attitude to sexual consent Wednesday as they opposed his appeal against extradition.

Assange is at London's High Court seeking to overturn a ruling in February that approved Sweden's attempt to extradite him for questioning over allegations of sexual assault against two women.

Clare Montgomery, a lawyer for the Swedish authorities, rejected closing arguments by Assange's defence lawyers that a rape allegation against him would not count as such under English law.

On the second and final day of the appeal hearing, Montgomery accused Ben Emmerson, one of Assange's lawyers, of "winding English law back to the 19th century" with his definition of consent.

"They (the alleged victims) are describing circumstances in which they did not freely consent without coercion," Montgomery said.

"They were forced either by physical force or by the sense of being trapped into the position where they had no choice and therefore submitted to Mr Assange's intentions."

On the allegation that one of the women woke up to find Assange having sex with her without a condom, Montgomery said: "She may later have acquiesced in it... but that didn't make the initial penetration anything other than an act of rape she had not consented to."

"This woman had never had unprotected sex and it was a very important issue to her," she said.

Assange, 40, has consistently denied the allegations, which date from August 2010.

Earlier Wednesday, another of Assange's lawyers, Mark Summers, reiterated arguments that the European arrest warrant issued by Sweden was invalid because he is only wanted for questioning and has not been charged.

"There was from the very outset of this case an easier way to proceed, a more proportionate way to proceed," he told the court.

He said the EU's executive Commission had examined the European arrest warrant system and issued guidance that warrants should not be issued in circumstances where there is a "less onerous" alternative.

"The reality of this case is also that no decision to prosecute or charge has been made. The preliminary investigation remains open," he said.

Assange took on a new legal team after a hearing in February which abandoned the bombastic statements by his previous lawyers warning that he could be deported to the United States and incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The former Australian hacker has himself remained uncharacteristically silent during the latest proceedings, refusing to comment on Tuesday or Wednesday to reporters waiting at the court.

At his previous appearances he gave long press conferences claiming the allegations are politically motivated and linked to his whistleblower website's releases of huge caches of leaked US government documents.

Assange was arrested in Britain in December. He has been living under strict bail conditions, including wearing an electronic ankle tag and a curfew, at a friend's mansion in eastern England.

© 2011 AFP

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