2010-12-02 Sweden case: The lawyers speak up II

London-based lawyer Mark Stephens spoke with The Guardian:

"Comparing the Swedish prosecutor to Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, Stalin's notorious security chief, Mark Stephens said "neither Mr Assange nor his lawyers have been provided any further information beyond that reported in the press."

He continued: "This appears to be a persecution and a prosecution. It is highly irregular and unusual for the Swedish authorities to issue a red notice in the teeth of the undisputed fact that Mr Assange has agreed to meet voluntarily to answer the prosecutor's questions. Mr Assange has repeatedly sought meetings with the prosecutrix – both in Sweden and subsequently – in order to answer her questions and clear his name. It is relevant that Mr Assange sought permission from the prosecutrix to leave Sweden and she gave him her permission. Since leaving Sweden Mr Assange has continued to seek meetings with the prosecutrix, but his requests have either been ignored or met with a refusal."

He added: "At this point in time, we have no evidence pointing to a link between these allegations from August and the issue of the Interpol alert just two days after the WikiLeaks first release of US diplomatic cables. However, it is highly unusual for a red notice warrant to be issued in relation to the allegations reported as having been made, since Swedish law does not require custodial orders in relation to the allegation – indeed to our knowledge this is a unique action by the Swedish prosecuting authorities in applying for a red notice on the basis of these allegations.

"We are also investigating whether the prosecutor's application to have Mr Assange held incommunicado without access to lawyers, visitors or other prisoners – again a unique request – is in any way linked to this matter and the recent, rather bellicose US statements of an intention to prosecute Mr Assange."

The Guardian also refers to Stephens's statements to The Times arguing that the arrest warrant issued was invalid:

"The arrest warrant has been issued in circumstances where Assange has an outstanding appeal in Sweden," Stephens said in the Times, while a police source was quoted as saying Assange's warrant was "not a properly certified warrant so we can't act on it."

Stephens argued that although Assange was originally wanted on a charge of rape, this had been thrown out after a partially successful appeal and which meant that Swedish law did not allow for another arrest warrant for current allegations.

He said British police had probably not taken any action against Assange because the warrant was issued incorrectly rather than because they didn't know where he was.

"The sole ground for the warrant is the prosecutor's blatantly false allegation that he is on the run from justice: he left Sweden lawfully and has offered himself for questioning. An appeal against this decision was filed on Monday and is pending," Stephens said.

Separately, Melbourne barrister James D. Catlin wrote in Crikey:

"Apparently having consensual s-x in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for r-pe. That is the basis for a reinstitution of r-pe charges against WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange that is destined to make Sweden and its justice system the laughing stock of the world and dramatically damage its reputation as a model of modernity.[...]

That further evidence hasn’t been confected to make the charges less absurd does Sweden no credit because it has no choice in the matter. The phenomena of social networking through the internet and mobile phones constrains Swedish authorities from augmenting the evidence against Assange because it would look even less credible in the face of tweets by Anna Ardin and SMS texts by Sofia Wilén boasting of their respective conquests after the “crimes”.

In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange’s honour at her flat after the “crime” and tweeted to her followers that she is with the “the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern. That she has published on the internet a guide on how to get revenge on cheating boyfriends ever graver. The exact content of Wilén’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Niether Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of r-pe.

But then neither Arden nor Wilén complained to the police but rather “sought advice”, a technique in Sweden enabling citizens to avoid just punishment for making false complaints. They sought advice together, having collaborated and irrevocably tainted each other’s evidence beforehand. Their SMS texts to each other show a plan to contact the Swedish newspaper Expressen beforehand in order to maximise the damage to Assange. They belong to the same political group and attended a public lecture given by Assange and organised by them. You can see Wilén on the YouTube video of the event even now.[...]

A great deal more damning evidence is yet to be revealed about what passes for legal process in Sweden, such as Assange’s lawyers having not received a single official document until November 18, 2010 (and then in Swedish language contrary to European Law) and having to learn about the status of investigations through prosecution media announcements but make no mistake: it is not Julian Assange that is on trial here but Sweden and its reputation as a modern and model country with rules of law."

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An appeal against the arrest warrant was filed on Monday on behalf of Julian Assange with the Sweden Supreme Court, which we covered here. Our full Sweden case coverage section can be found here.