Assange lawyer to face ethics query: Swedish bar association

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The Swedish Bar Association on Wednesday summoned one of Julian Assange's lawyers to answer questions about ethics breach allegations made by the British judge in charge of the WikiLeaks founder's extradition hearing.

"We have written a letter to (lawyer Bjoern Hurtig) on February 25 asking him to inform us on what has actually happened before the City of Westminster court" in London, the head of the bar association Anne Ramberg told AFP.

"The judge has made rather serious accusations in regard of mister Hurtig and we wanted him to respond to that," she said.

When the London court last week ruled that Assange could be extradited to Sweden for questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation, judge Howard Riddle had among other things accused Hurtig of making a "deliberate attempt to mislead the court."

The judge was referring to testimony in which Hurtig had said he had been unable to contact Assange last year when he was sought by Swedish prosecutors for questioning.

Hurtig himself told the TT news agency Wednesday that he was "eager to explain himself," although he stressed he felt he had "already explained my error when I changed my statement in front of the court."

Ramberg said the lawyer had until March 14 to respond to the bar association's questions.

She would not comment on whether Hurtig risked being disbarred.

"When I have his answers, then I will consider if I believe that Mr. Hurtig has committed a crime against our ethical rules. If I find that's the case, then I will put this to a disciplinary committee with the bar that will make a decision," she said.

She said she was not aware of any prior blemishes on Hurtig's record.

Assange, who rocked the world's diplomatic institutions and infuriated Washington last year when his whistleblowing website began releasing hundreds of thousands of secret US State Department and military documents, has appealed the court ruling to extradite him to Sweden.

The former computer hacker says the claims against him by two women he met during a seminar organised by WikiLeaks in August last year are politically motivated because of his work.

Assange has claimed his greatest fear was eventual extradition to the United States, where his lawyers argued he could be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility or face the death penalty.

© 2011 AFP

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