Secret texts 'key to Julian Assange case'

A hoard of secret text messages could hold the key to finally clearing the name of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a court was told tonight.

The whistleblower's Swedish lawyer said investigators have collected around 100 messages to and from his two alleged victims that undermine the case against him.

Bjorn Hurtig, 45, said the texts indicate the women expected to be paid, intended to get "revenge" and wanted to contact newspapers to "blast" his client's reputation.

But he told Belmarsh Magistrates' Court that prosecutors in Stockholm have not let him have copies, making it impossible for Assange to receive a fair trial.

He claimed Marianne Ny, who is behind the case against the former computer hacker, warned him not to disclose the contents of the texts as it may violate rules governing the conduct of lawyers.

Mr Hurtig said: "I have been briefly allowed to see other exculpatory evidence but I have not been permitted to make copies to show my client.

"I consider this to be contrary to the rules of a fair trial."

The claim was made at the end of the second day of a hearing to decide whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden to be prosecuted over claims of sexual assault.

The Australian, 39, faces three charges of sexually assaulting one woman and one charge of raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm last August.

District Judge Howard Riddle, who moved the case from Westminster because of overwhelming media interest, adjourned the over-running case until Friday at 10.30am for a final session.

Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish authorities, said there was no reason that Assange should not be sent overseas to answer the case against him.

She outlined how prosecutors tried more than 10 times over one week last September to arrange an interview with Assange before he left the country.

Assange's legal team claimed putting him into the hands of the authorities in Stockholm would be a "flagrant denial of justice" and breach his human rights.

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.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, for Assange, said he was frustrated Ms Ny had not come to court. He called Mr Hurtig and a second witness, former Swedish prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, to give evidence today.

Mr Hurtig said it was "outrageous" for a prosecutor to publicly confirm Assange was under investigation for rape, an act which is illegal but carries no punishment.

Mr Alhem said it was "quite peculiar" that Swedish investigators did not get Assange's side of the story before issuing a domestic arrest warrant.

But he admitted that if he was in the same position as Assange he would have gone to Sweden to "give my version of events" and to "clear my name".

Further evidence emerged in more than 40 documents, including witness statements and court paperwork, published by Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens.

In one statement, Mr Hurtig said Assange faced one of the "weakest" cases he has ever seen and claimed the alleged victims may have a "hidden agenda".