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ASSANGE EXTRADITION PROCEEDINGS February 7, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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The extradition proceedings against Julian Assange have begun in London’s Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court.

Who knows what the hierarchy of the British legal system looks like, but I would have thought these proceedings would have been before a judge – and of course they may well be. The BBC provides a summary of the case and the defence that Assange’s lawyers – led by Geoffrey Robertson – will provide:

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange begins extradition battle

Mr Assange and his supporters claim the inquiry is politically motivated. He faces allegations of sexual assault against two women, which he denies. Mr Assange argues Swedish prosecutors had no right to issue a warrant for his arrest because he has not yet been charged with any offences.

At the extradition hearing, in London’s Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, his lawyers are also challenging the move on human rights grounds. Mr Assange’s legal team, led by Geoffrey Robertson QC, argues that if their client is forced to return to Sweden he could be extradited to the US, or even Guantanamo Bay, to face separate charges relating to the publication of secret documents by Wikileaks. He fears he could face the death penalty as a result, his defence says.

BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman suggests Mr Assange’s lawyers are focusing their defence on technical arguments, such as that the Swedish prosecutor in this case is not a recognised judicial authority.

Clare Montgomery QC representing Swedish authorities says rape is one of 32 offences that warrants extradition ”

They say the extradition is being sought for Mr Assange’s questioning, not prosecution, meaning the Swedish authorities could ask for him to questioned by UK police, or via the internet, instead.

The defence team is also putting forward human rights issues, by suggesting that three of the offences alleged against Mr Assange are not extradition offences. And our correspondent says he understands it is being argued that Mr Assange would not get a fair trial in Sweden, because rape cases in that country are customarily held without a jury and in secret.

The whistle-blowing website has been used to publish leaked US diplomatic cables, as well as other sensitive material from governments and high-profile organisations.

Clare Montgomery QC, representing the Swedish authorities, told the court rape is one of 32 offences that warrants extradition. She argued Mr Assange – a 39-year-old Australian – must face charges of rape and sexual molestation under Swedish law, following accusations by two women.

His lawyers say the European Arrest Warrant under which he has been detained is invalid because he is only being asked to provide his account of events, but has not yet been charged. They say he has already offered himself for questioning and extradition is not necessary.

Mr Assange was released on bail by a High Court judge just before Christmas after spending nine days in Wandsworth prison. He denies sexually assaulting two female supporters during a visit to Stockholm in August. Mr Assange and his supporters claim the inquiry is politically motivated. The extradition hearing is expected to last two days.

The BBC’s Anna Adams is providing the twitter feed as it happens.

We have to wait and see what happens, but I would anticipate the case against Assange, and in particular the way in which the evidence has been gathered will not stand legal scrutiny in a process of natural justice. I suppose the British judge will ruling on the question of extradition. To me, it seems absurd.

It is interesting to reflect that Assange and Bradley Manning have been subject to incarceration, but those shot the journalists, cameraman and others in the Baghdad square have not been brought to account.

ELSEWHERE:

This case is bizarre. Documents have been leaked to the media. And now AOL carries a story by:

A Swedish journalist who knows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the two Swedish women who have accused him of sexual assault is raising questions about the veracity of one of the women’s claims.

Surely the Swedish legal system cannot be as politicized as it seems to be, and there must be corrective process.

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