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Legal expert slams Assange case
Former Swedish prosecutor says there were serious irregularities in case built against the WikiLeaks founder.
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 11:44 GMT
Lawyers for WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange have said he will not be given a fair trial if extradited to Sweden [Reuters]

A former chief prosecutor in Sweden has criticised his country's handling of the case against Julian Assange, founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Sven-Erik Alhem, appearing at the second day of a hearing in London to decide whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden, said it was "quite peculiar" that investigators in his country did not obtain Assange's version of events before issuing an arrest warrant. 

The 39-year-old Australian was arrested in London last December, for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct against two women.

But Alhelm, a witness for the defence, said that Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor who issued the warrant, "should have made sure Assange was able to give his version of events in detail".

Clare Montgomery, the British lawyer representing Sweden, said that Ny spent a week trying to arrange an interview with Assange.

In a document read by Montgomery, Ny said that "it must have been crystal clear to Julian Assange ... that we were extremely anxious to interview him".

She said an interview could not be set up and at one point Assange's Swedish lawyer was unable to contact him for several days, and given this he was considered "an obvious flight risk".

However Alhem said investigators should have examined other options, including an interview by video link once Assange had left the country in late September, before issuing a European Arrest Warrant.

But when asked what he would have done if faced with similar allegations, Alhem said: "If I was in his shoes then I would have gone to Sweden to give my version of events".

Laurence Lee, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the court, said rather than bolster a case for the defence, Alhelm's testimony almost appeared to have the "opposite effect".

"Some of the evidence presented today has amply demonstrated the enormous steps [Ny] took to get Assange back to Sweden to answer these allegations," he said.

'Weak' case

Earli a Swedish lawyer representing Assange claimed the two alleged victims may have a "hidden agenda".

"I can see from the text messages, in which the complainants speak of 'revenge', obtaining money and speaking about Assange in the press, that they may have a hidden agenda, which casts serious doubt on their accusations," Bjorn Hurtig said in a statement before Tuesday's hearing.

Hurtig, who is due to give evidence at the high security Belmarsh Magistrate's court , added that the case against Assange was one of the "weakest" he had ever seen.

On Monday, Geoffrey Roberston, Assange's defence lawyer, told the court that his client would not get a fair trial in Sweden because of his notoriety and because Swedish rape cases are often held in secret.

But Clare Montgomery, the lawyer representing Sweden, said Swedish trials are based on the principle that everyone deserves a fair and public hearing.

Three of his most high-profile supporters also said they feared Assange would be extradited to the United States once in Sweden, and said he could face incarceration "or worse".

"If he goes back to Sweden then of course the American will get him to the USA and like Bradley Manning, who began this work, he could easily be put in solitary confinement and receive an unfair trial," Tony Benn, a former Labour minister, told a rally in the British capital on Monday.

But the prosecution sought to allay fears about a possible extradition to the US, saying that would not happen.

Supporters for the WikiLeaks founder have said the allegations against him in Sweden are politically motivated, a charge Stockholm has denied.

Assange infuriated the US government last year when his website began to release thousands of secret US diplomatic cables.

WikiLeaks had already sparked controversy by releasing thousands of "war logs" on Afghanistan and a video showing US military firing on civilians and journalists in Iraq.

Although proceedings at the Belmarsh Magistrates Court in London will wrap up on Tuesday, the judge is expected to defer a ruling until later this month, under a term known as "reserving judgement".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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