Saturday, February 12, 2011

Julian Assange\'s lawyer makes graphic defence during extradition hearing

11 February 2011

The accusation of sexual assault made against Julian Assange by one of his two alleged Swedish victims describes \"the missionary position\", his lawyer said in court , as he denied such an attack took place.

Geoffrey Robertson QC told the extradition hearing, at Belmarsh magistrate\'s court in south London, that any resistance had been \"unarticulated\" on the part of Miss A, who has accused the WikiLeaks founder of ripping off her clothes, snapping a necklace, pinning her down and trying to force himself on her without wearing a condom.

\"In so far as Mr Assange held her arms and there was a forceful spreading of her legs, there\'s no allegation that this was without her consent,\" he said.

\"Sexual encounters have their ups and downs, their ebbs and flows. What may be unwanted one moment can with further empathy become desired. These complex human interactions are not criminal in this country.\"

The argument that Assange used the weight of his body to pin her down \"describes what is usually termed the missionary position,\" he said.

Sweden is seeking Assange\'s extradition in relation to the allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual molestation by the two women. The second woman, Miss B, accuses Assange of having sex with her while she was sleeping, which amounts to an allegation of rape.

Assange denies all the allegations, and is fighting the extradition request. He has not been charged. The defence argues that the sexual behaviour would not amount to rape and sexual assault in English law, and that the European arrest warrant against him was invalid.

But Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish prosecutor, said of Miss A\'s account: \"In popular language, that\'s violence.\" The account given by Miss B, meanwhile, \"would undoubtedly be rape here. If you penetrate a sleeping woman there\'s an evidential assumption that she did not consent.\"

The defence had unsuccessfully sought an adjournment following remarks this week by the Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, in which, Robertson said, he had vilified Assange as \"public enemy number one\" in Sweden and created a \"toxic atmosphere\" against him.

Reinfeldt is reported to have said that Assange\'s defence team had patronised Swedes by criticising its legal system. \"What worries me is that [Assange\'s lawyers] are trying to shy away from the fact that there exist allegations that are very serious,\" he told Swedish channel TV4.

Montgomery said the prime minister was responding in part to media briefings given by Assange and his lawyers outside court. \"You may think that those who seek to fan the flames of a media firestorm can\'t be too surprised when they get burnt.\"

Robertson, summing up, restated the defence argument that the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, was not authorised to issue the warrant for his extradition, and that the warrant sought Assange for interrogation rather than prosecution, which the defence says is illegal.

The Swedish practice of hearing rape trials in secret, he said, was \"antipathetic to the British rule of law that justice must be seen to be done\".

Montgomery said the use of the word \"secret\" was \"a parody\", arguing that while evidence at rape trials was heard in private, legal arguments and judgment were public.

Outside court, Assange, who said that Montgomery had represented the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet at an extradition hearing told reporters: \"We have not been able to present my side of the story. I have never been able to present my side of the story.\"

He hoped his case would highlight \"abuses\" suffered by others who did not benefit from the same media spotlight.

The parties will return to court on 24 February, when the district judge, Howard Riddle, will deliver his judgment.

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