2011-01-11 Misleading press coverage of Julian Assange Trial

Julian Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, delivered a 35-page skeleton outline of his court arguments to various media after the brief review hearing this morning at Belmarsh magistrates court (paraphrased in brief):

(1) It is not accepted that the Swedish prosecutor is authorised to issue European Arrest Warrants (EAW).
(2) European arrest warrants should only be issued for the purposes of prosecution, and it has been made very clear that Mr. Assange is wanted for further questioning.
(3) There has been abuse of process: non-disclosure by the Swedish Prosecutor.
(4) There has been a further abuse of process: the conduct of the prosecution in Sweden.
(5) The offences alleged in the EAW are not of serious nature in the UK, as they must be to constitute extradition offences.
(6) Mr Assange reserves the right to argue extraneous considerations.(section 13 of the Act).
(7) Mr. Assange reserves the right to argue that his extradition may be incompatible with Articles 3, 6, 8 and 10 of the European Commission on Human Rights.

In partial support of point number 7, the one Assange is only reserving the right to argue, on page 34 of the 35 page document, item number 98 of 100, the document states:

It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR. Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death

Despite having access to the complete document, various media have headlined the 98th point as if it were the primary or even only defense instead of partial support for an auxiliary argument he is reserving the right to make.

From the Guardian: Headline: WikiLeaks: Julian Assange 'faces execution or Guantánamo detention' - Skeleton argument outlined by Australian's defence team claims he could face rendition to US if extradited to Sweden

In the eighth paragraph, the article mentions that there were seven points in the argument. They are listed beginning on the eleventh paragraph.

From Financial Review: Headline: Assange lawyers highlight execution risk: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could be at “real risk” of the death penalty or detention in Guantanamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual assault, his lawyers claim.

From Arab News: Headline: Journalists back Assange as whistle-blower fears execution

The 39-year-old whistle-blower is wanted by the Swedish authorities over claims that he sexually assaulted two women during a visit to Stockholm in August.

But his defense team believe there is a “real risk” he could be extradited on to the US, where he could be detained in Guantanamo Bay or even face the death penalty. The claim emerged in a skeleton argument released by Assange’s lawyers in the wake of a preparatory legal hearing at Woolwich Crown Court.

Assange’s legal team suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture.

They wrote: “Indeed, if Assange were rendered to the USA without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.”

(Does not mention other arguments.)

The Independent: 'If my client ends up in the US he'll go to Guantanamo, or be executed,' says Assange's lawyer - Claim that grisly fate awaits the WikiLeaks founder if he is extradited

Julian Assange fears that he will be sent to Guantanamo Bay and ultimately executed if he is extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, his legal team said yesterday.

The Independent: Assange fears of trial in US justified, says expert

ABC: Lawyers fear Julian Assange could face death penalty

Primarily the defence documents argue that the case is a pretext for a criminal prosecution in the United States, which has the prospect of landing Julian Assange in an electric chair.

Wired: Lawyer Fears Assange Could Face Death Penalty in U.S. (Does not mention other arguments.)

Huffington Post: Julian Assange Fears 'Guantanamo' Or 'Death Penalty' If Extradited To U.S. (Does not mention other arguments.)

The Wall Street Journal: Assange Lawyers See U.S. Extradition 'Risk' (Does not mention other arguments.)

Update 1:
A much better article from Crikey covers the entire argument.

This was the original live blog from the Guardian during the trial. An interesting read beside the story they later extracted from this information.

Do they have a good argument? You bet!


I do believe that Julian Assanges legal team has a very good argument against extradition to Sweden (and, ultimately, America).

Although the domain http://julianassangemustdie.com has been 'released' (the domains owner closed it) another page is still active:

I have informed the sites service provider as well as British and American authorities (including the F.B.I) about this pages existence. The I.P. range holder is South West Bell and is owned by AT&T. The report abuse email addresses are abuse@sbcglobal.net and abuse@att.net.


Did this yesterday (Jan 11,2011) and... yes... the page is still up. Need I say more?

[Update] It seems the site above is still linked to http://KillAssange.com.

Coming soon... police investigation into incitement (we hope).

[update 2] (Jan 13,2011) http://KillAssange.com is dead. If you go to you (might) get this message:

"We apologize for the site that had been previously posted here, as it was created by an unauthorized hack of our web server. It does not represent our company's true intentions and is not the sort of message we wish to convey. Our server has been properly security patched and should not be compromised again in the future."

Really now! Well! That nixes any chance that we'll see an investigation into those 'hackers' for incitement.

Did anyone else raise a fuss? In my emails I put on my best 'faux lawyer' hat, using big words and phraseology that even I didn't understand. It's worked before ;).

I agree with you that the

I agree with you that the reports that don't even mention, much less feature, the earlier important arguments are deplorable.

One point worth making, though -- and I suspect that most of these sources (not all of which I've read yet) don't make it and document it: Sweden does have a history of complicity in illegal kidnappings from its territory by agents of the U.S., aka "extraordinary renditions." So Assange's lawyers aren't just making that concern up for PR reasons. Given the Swedish prosecutor's strange departures from recognized practices (listed in the earlier arguments), there is reason to worry that Assange would be less secure in Sweden than in the UK, more vulnerable to extrajudicial measures.


I guess I should document my own claims:

Swedish officials handed over al-Zari and another Egyptian, Ahmed Agiza, to CIA operatives on December 18, 2001 for transfer from Stockholm to Cairo. Both men were asylum seekers in Sweden, and suspected of terrorist activities in Egypt, where torture of such suspects is commonplace. Returns to risk of torture are illegal under international law.

To cover itself, the Swedish government obtained promises from the Egyptian authorities that the men would not be tortured or subjected to the death penalty, and would be given fair trials. Despite post-return monitoring by Swedish diplomats, both men were tortured in Egypt. In April 2004, Agiza was convicted on terrorism charges following a flagrantly unfair trial monitored by Human Rights Watch. Al-Zari was released in October 2003 without charge or trial, and remains under police surveillance in Egypt.

The [UN] Human Rights Committee decision stated that Sweden “has not shown that the diplomatic assurances procured were in fact sufficient in the present case to eliminate the risk of ill-treatment to a level consistent” with the ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


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