A lot of misinformation has been spread about Julian Assange in relation to the allegations made against him and what he is facing if extradited to Sweden. A lot of this misinformation has come from the mouth of Julia Gillard.
As of yesterday Mr Assange lost his High Court appeal and will find out in 21 days if he can appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court which is their highest court.
I came across a site called Sweden v Assange which puts a lot of things in perspective and with the permission of the editor I reprint one of their posts below. I will comment on it at the end.
Fair Trial for Julian Assange?
Criticism of Swedish justice system
Of all the signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights, Sweden has the highest per capita rate of cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights relating to article 6.1 (right to a fair trial). It also has the highest rate of adverse rulings when it comes to the fair trial.
Fair trial as a ground for challenging the EAW – February Hearing
In the February Hearing, Julian Assange’s lawyers argued that the UK should not extradite him because he would not face a fair trial in Sweden. If extradited, Assange will be:
Held in prison in solitary confinement when he is returned, despite not having been charged (likely to spend up to a year in custody). There is no time limit to detention in Sweden.
There is no bail system, so he would remain in detention indefinitely.
If there is a charge and a trial, it will be held in secret.
He will not be judged by an ’independent and impartial tribunal’, a fundamental requirement under the European Convention of Human Rights (article 6.1). Three out of the four judges are lay judges, who have been appointed by political parties and have no formal legal training (see Lay Judges).
The Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, has not given Julian Assange or his lawyers information on the allegations against him in writing, which violates the Swedish Code of Procedure (RB 23:18) and the European Convention of Human Rights (article 5), and the EU Fundamental Charter on Human Rights.
There has been political interference with the Prime Minister’s statements to the Swedish Parliament during the trial (see Political Interference, and constant press attention has been given to the complainants’ lawyer (see Media climate in Sweden).
The bilateral agreement between the United States and Sweden allows Julian Assange to be extradited to the US as soon as he arrives in Sweden (see section on US extradition). Under US custody, Julian Assange risks kidnapping, torture, and execution.
Reactions in Sweden to the criticism of the Swedish Justice System
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stated in a parliamentary address that criticisms of the Swedish Justice system are unfounded, and Assange’s lawyers have tried to patronise Sweden (7 February 2011). The original statements are available here.
In an anonymous survey one out of three jurists agreed that Assange’s criticisms of the Swedish Justice system were well-founded (English here, and here). The comments by Swedish lawyers reveal a profound lack of trust in the legal system:
“The Swedish judicial system is close to falling apart as far as sex crimes goes. Bizarre gender theories have had too much influence on practitioners of jurisprudence.”
“Considering the pressure on Assange by the world at large, it’s not unrealistic to suspect there are things going on behind the scenes that have influenced how the case is being handled.”
The Swedish lawyers Jens Lapidus and Johan Åkermark published “Assange’s criticism is right on several counts” in one of the main Swedish dailies, DN (05 May 2011):
“We share Assange’s criticism about the rules of detention, the Lay Judges and the routine fashion in which trials are held behind closed doors.”
Claes Borgström, the lawyer for the two complainants in the Assange investigation, has also argued detention periods are excessively long in Sweden.
Anne Ramberg, the chairperson of the Lawyers’ Association said:
“Both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and other Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and the UN Committee Against Torture have criticised Sweden for long detention periods and we agree that they can be incredibly long. We have also repeatedly through the years challenged trials behind closed doors. As well as the Lay Judges, but on the grounds that it recruits from a limited pool of people rather than the politicisation of the courts.”
Would a trial lead to Assange’s Conviction?
The testimonies of the two complainants (AA and SW), Julian Assange, and nine witnesses (English here) were leaked onto the internet in January 2011.
Swedish lawyers are divided on whether Assange would be convicted of the allegations against him.
Arguing that Assange would be found not guilty if charged:
Criminal justice professor Per-Ole Träskman (University of Lund Sweden) and doctoral researcher Sakari Melander (University of Helsinki) discussed the rape allegations against Assange in the Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. They argued that a conviction was unlikely:
* Träskman: “Based on the evidence available, it is unlikely Assange would be convicted of the suspected crimes. Also, the prosecutor has not yet raised charges. That means the prosecutor doesn’t think there’s sufficient reason to raise a charge at this stage. That’s why she wants Assange to be heard in Sweden relying on a European Arrest Warrant.”
* Melander: “The success of a possible charge in court is not likely because reasonable doubt remains about Assange’s guilt. If there is unclarity about guilt, or there is no full certainty of it, the case must be resolved in favour of the accused.”
The full transcript in English is available here.
Björn Hurtig, Assange’s defence counsel in Sweden, estimated that there was a 50% chance of conviction. However he argued the following in a letter to Assange’s UK defence counsel, Mark Stephens:
“Having studied the case-file, as well as other material which I was permitted to inspect but not take copies or notes of (sms/text messages from the complainants’ mobile phones), the case is one of the weakest cases I have ever seen in my professional career…”
“It is highly uncertain whether Mr. Assange will be prosecuted at all, if extradited. If prosecuted, I consider it highly unlikely that he will be convicted. If convicted, he would be likely, in light of the nature and detail of the allegations themselves (the lack of any threats or physical violence, the consensual sexual relations between the complainants and Mr. Assange before the incidents and, in the case of [AA] (her evidence on this point is contradictory) after the incidents, and his personal circumstances, to receive a suspended sentence.”
Arguing that Assange is likely to be found guilty if charged:
Per E. Samuelson, a high-profile Swedish criminal defense lawyer who specialises in rape cases, has explained the context of the rape allegations against Assange, and the uphill battle he has to prove his innocence. Samuelsson was also quoted in an article on AOL.
* “People from other countries with different legal cultures just do not understand how extensive the Swedish legal system is regarding sexual crimes. The allegations made against Julian Assange in Sweden must seem to Assange as pure nonsense, as a joke. But he must understand that these are the kind of things for which men go to prison in Sweden.”
“There was a discussion [about a law in sexual offences in 2007], but it has not changed. Political pressure which has the equality of women in society as starting point – which is in principle commendable – has led to an unacceptable very high legal uncertainty for defendants in Sweden. This is what Assange is experiencing right now. The feminist movement in Sweden is particularly strong. It has long been criticised by women’s rights activists that the judges would believe men more. It was said that it was impossible to get justice as a woman. Now the reverse is true in Sweden.
* “Today convictions are demanded due to a basic political tenor [a higher conviction rate was the stated purpose of Thomas Bodström (the partner in the law firm representing the two complainants against Assange) while he was Minister of Justice and promoting the reforms for the Sexual offences law]. The tenor: in rape cases, men have to be sentenced; otherwise it is unfair to women. This is unworthy of a constitutional state.”
“In Sweden, the consensus is: you say the truth because you’re a woman. That is the limit for me. I am for the equality of women in society. Of course. But it cannot go so far that people who are innocent are convicted. In Sweden, the so-called victim’s perspective is so advanced that there are even people out there who believe in all seriousness that it is unacceptable that women in general are exposed to the rigours of an interrogation in court. People say we as trial lawyers would offend these women because we interrogate them on behalf of our clients. I think such a culture is unprecedented in Western Europe.”
The above is reprinted in full with the permission of the editor of the website: Sweden v Assange which is at http://www.swedenversusassange.com/
One of the theories suggested by Assange supporters is that Sweden only want to have him extradited so he can be extradited to the US. This to me does not seem to be without any basis. Especially when you consider that he has already been interviewed by the Swedish (although not for rape) and the strange way they seem to have gone about the whole process. Crikey.com has a timeline of the matter up to the end of last year. (Click here to read)
It has also been reported that one of the reasons he has not been charged and is only wanted for questioning is that one of the accusers is refusing to co-operate with Swedish prosecutors anymore.
What has Julia Gillard been doing? Not much. One would have thought she could at least have sought assurances from Sweden that Julian Assange would not be extradited to the US from Sweden. But as we know she has been acting as the US’s mouth piece on this one. Yes our relationship with the US is important, but it is not necessary for the Australian Prime Minister to cower to the US on every issue.
Obviously my main interest in following this matter is that it is a flow on from my post on the 7th of August titled “Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s criminal history and her hypocrisy with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.” (Click here to read)
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