Assange prosecutor is 'anti-men'

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The Independent Online

The prosecutor who wants WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited to Sweden to face sex charges is "biased" against men, a court heard today.

Retired Swedish appeal court judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman made the claim about Marianne Ny as Assange's legal team said putting the 39-year-old Australian into the hands of the authorities in Stockholm would be a "flagrant denial of justice".

They fear a move to Sweden could lead to him being taken against his will to the United States, detained at Guantanamo Bay and ultimately executed for spying.

Mrs Sundberg-Weitman, who was flown to London by Assange's legal team to give evidence supporting their argument, said she could not understand the "attitude" of Miss Ny, a specialist rape prosecutor, and accused her of having a "rather biased view against men".

She said: "She seems to take it for granted that everybody under prosecution is guilty.

"I think she is so preoccupied with the situation of battered women and raped women that she has lost balance."

Woolwich Crown Court, sitting as Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, heard extradition is disproportionate and the offences he faces are not crimes under British law.

Geoffrey Robertson QC said Swedish officials were not authorised to order his extradition and filled out vital paperwork ambiguously and incorrectly.

Swedish officials confirmed for the first time they want to prosecute Assange, not just question him, and said they have followed due process.

Opening his case, Mr Robertson said the blizzard of international press coverage risked "trial by media" and prejudicing hearings that are likely to be held in secret.

Mr Robertson added: "That's a compelling argument that there's a real risk of a flagrant violation of his rights."

A series of developments in and out of court threw fresh light on the case as hundreds of reporters descended on the south-east London courthouse. They included:

:: Swedish law reform campaigner Goran Rudling said one alleged victim deleted Twitter comments that indicated she was enjoying her time with Assange.

:: A blog about getting revenge on an unfaithful partner written by the same alleged victim months before she met Assange was deleted after she went to police.

:: The Australian Government has been asked to request assurances from their Swedish counterparts that Assange would never be removed from their country.

:: Assange's legal team is concerned the Swedes could "bow to US pressure" or "naively" rely on diplomatic assurances and allow him to be taken across the Atlantic.

:: Assange published more than 40 documents relating to the extradition, including witness statements and the arrest warrant, on the website of his solicitor, Mark Stephens.

Assange faces three charges of sexually assaulting one woman and one charge of raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm last August.

He arrived at the court in his trademark grey hooded duffel coat after spending the night at the Frontline Club, in Paddington.

Reporters from around the world laid siege to the courthouse and queued around the block to claim their tickets for the 100 media seats available.

He was supported by a number of high-profile campaigners, including Bianca Jagger, Jemima Khan and veteran left-winger Tony Benn.

The hearing focused on largely technical challenges on the status of Swedish officials, the validity of the European Arrest Warrant and claims his human rights would be breached.

Mr Robertson said extradition would be a "blatant breach" of British constitutional principles and would breach five "fundamental rights" under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Rudling told the court one victim deleted Tweets indicating she was "happy and positive" with Assange's company shortly before she reported the crime.

He added that the woman also appealed to friends for help in finding a party to take Assange to and described sitting with some of the "coolest, smartest people" in a late-night message.

Speaking outside court after the hearing, Assange said: "For the past five-and-a-half months we have been in a condition where a black box has been applied to my life.

"On the outside of that black box has been written the word 'rape'. That box is now, thanks to an open court process, been opened.

"I hope over the next day we will see that that box is in fact empty and has nothing to do with the words that are on the outside of it.

"We have seen that today and I would like to thank my supporters and my lawyers for continuing to help me.

"A process like this surely lets you understand who your friends are."