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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resumes extradition fight

The views of a female prosecutor became a central issue in the year-long legal battle by the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual-assault charges.

Julian Assange arrives at the Supreme Court in London yesterday to appeal against his extradition to Sweden. Several dozen supporters were outside the court, cheering and singing Bob Dylan songs as he arrived for the start of the two-day hearing.
Julian Assange arrives at the Supreme Court in London yesterday to appeal against his extradition to Sweden. Several dozen supporters were outside the court, cheering and singing Bob Dylan songs as he arrived for the start of the two-day hearing.

LONDON // The views of a female prosecutor became a central issue yesterday in the year-long legal battle by the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual-assault charges.

Lawyers for the 40-year-old Australian, who has to remain in Britain until the extradition case is resolved, opened their case before the UK's highest court yesterday, arguing that the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) under which he was first detained in 2010 was not valid.

Several dozen supporters of the man whose leaks of secret documents have caused embarrassment to governments worldwide - the US in particular - were outside the Supreme Court in London to cheer and sing Bob Dylan songs as Mr Assange arrived yesterday morning for the start of the two-day hearing.

Last February, Mr Assange was ordered to be extradited to Sweden to answer accusations of raping one woman and sexually molesting another in August 2010, when he was in Stockholm to deliver a lecture.

He has denied the charges and said that sex with the women was consensual, but he lost a subsequent appeal to the High Court and, yesterday, launched his latest bid before seven judges in the Supreme Court.

The judges are expected to reserve their judgment and deliver it at a later date. If they rule against him, Mr Assange will still have the option of attempting to obtain a hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.

Dinah Rose QC, Mr Assange's barrister, told the judges that the case raised a "significant issue of law". She argued that Marianne Ny, the Swedish public prosecutor who issued the EAW, did not constitute "a judicial authority" as required under the 2003 Extradition Act because she was an active part of the effort to prosecute Mr Assange.

It was "a matter of fundamental legal principle", she said, that a judicial authority be both independent and impartial. "Since the Swedish prosecutor cannot fulfil those conditions, she is not a judicial authority and not capable of issuing a warrant for the purposes of the 2003 Act," she added.

"She lacks the impartiality and the independence from both the executive and the parties which constitute essential features of the exercise of judicial authority, under domestic and European law," said Ms Rose.

"In short, the prosecutor, as the party with conduct of the criminal investigation into the allegations against [Assange] cannot act as a judge in relation to the same action.

"To purport to do so is a breach of the rule that nobody may be a judge in their own cause, which is a fundamental principle of natural justice underpinning both common law and European legal systems."

Describing the EAW as "draconian", Ms Rose argued that Swedish prosecutors could investigate the case without the need for Mr Assange to be extradited.

"There exists no legal or procedural obstacle to the Swedish authorities taking [Assange's] evidence now by telephone, by video-link, in person at an embassy," she said.

"The EAW is a draconian instrument which affects individual liberty, freedom of movement and private life: it should only be resorted to if other, less invasive, measures for achieving the general interest have failed or are unavailable.

"The results sought to be achieved by this EAW could have been achieved and could still be achieved by alternative means."

It is not the first time Miss Ny has been criticised in the case. During the initial extradition hearing a year ago, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a former Swedish Appeal Court Judge, described the behaviour of Miss Ny as "extremely peculiar".

Mrs Sundberg-Weitman, who is now an associate law professor at Stockholm University, described the Swedish prosecutor as having "a rather biased view against men in the treatment of sexual offence cases".

Describing Miss Ny as being "involved in sexual politics", Mrs Sundberg-Weitman added: "They seem to take it for granted that everyone under prosecution is guilty. I honestly can't understand her attitude. It looks malicious. I think maybe she wants to make him suffer."

Mr Assange, who is to be a guest on the next series of The Simpsons and who is to host a chat show on Russia Today - a Kremlin-funded TV station - in March, sat throughout the hearing, listening intently.

dsapsted@thenational.ae