The prosecutor leading the rape and sexual assault case against Julian Assange is a "malicious" radical feminist who is "biased against men", a retired senior Swedish judge has told the hearing into Assange's extradition to Sweden.
In caustic evidence on the first day of the two-day hearing, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a former appeal court judge, told Belmarsh magistrates court that Sweden's chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who is seeking the WikiLeaks founder's extradition, "has a rather biased view against men". "I can't understand her attitude here. It looks malicious," she said.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, acting for Assange, asked if it was her view that Ny wanted "to get [Assange] into her clutches and then arrest him no matter what?"
"Yes" said Sundberg-Weitman. "It might be her attitude to have the man arrested and maybe let him suffer for a few weeks to have him softer [for interrogation]."
Such was the hostility towards Assange in Sweden that "most people take it for granted that he's raped two women", she said. The country is seeking Assange's extradition in relation to allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual molestation made by two women in August.
He denies all the allegations and has not been charged.
Under cross-examination by Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish government, however, Sundberg-Weitman admitted she had no personal knowledge of the conduct of the prosecutor in the case, basing her views instead on what she had been told.
She also acknowledged that while she believed the warrant to have been disproportionate, a Swedish district court and the appeal court, considering evidence from Assange's Swedish lawyer Björn Hurtig, had judged it both proportionate and legal. "I must say I am very concerned about the state of the rule of law in Sweden," she said in response. "It has been decaying since the mid-1970s."
The hearing is being presided over by Judge Howard Riddle, the chief magistrate. Assange listened intently from the dock, watched by supporters including Jemima Goldsmith, Bianca Jagger and Tony Benn, who had agreed to attend following an invitation from Goldsmith.
Montgomery also led the former judge to acknowledge that she was not an expert in the European arrest warrant, despite criticising its use in this case, and challenged line by line the newspaper article on which she said she was basing her assertion that Ny was a "radical feminist".
Sundburg-Weitman pointed to lectures on sexual violence that the prosecutor had made, to which Montgomery said: "But she's a rape prosecutor." The former judge maintained her assertion that the prosecutor was "a bit biased".
Robertson argued that both Ny and Claes Borgström, the lawyer representing the two women, were politically motivated. Ny had illegally confirmed Assange's identity on the charges when asked by a Stockholm tabloid, he said (accused sex offenders are customarily anonymous in Sweden).
"This man Borgström", meanwhile, had vilified Assange in the press and "would be behind bars for contempt in this country," the lawyer said.
Also called by the defence was Göran Rudling, a Swedish blogger and campaigner on the country's rape laws, which he believes are not tough enough.
Rudling said he was not a supporter of Assange or WikiLeaks, but had taken an interest in the case after finding tweets that were later deleted sent by "Miss A", one of the two women, in the hours after the alleged offences, in which she had asked if anyone was holding a crayfish party that she could attend with Assange, and in a tweet from the partythat she was "sitting outside at 2am, with the coolest and smartest people".
"It meant that the story told to police was not consistent with the tweets," he said. He had reported the tweets to police but had not heard back from them, he said.
Rudling also translated another document for the court that he had found on the internet, entitled "A seven point programme for legal revenge", apparently posted by Miss A in January 2010 but deleted in November. The last point included the admonition: "Remember, your victim has to suffer as much as he made you suffer."
Asked had he seen the police file relating to the case, Rudling said his knowledge was based on a 100-page bundle of documents faxed in November by Hurtig to Mark Stephens, Assange's British solicitor, and leaked onto the internet last week.
Earlier, Robertson, in opening the case for the defence, said that the Swedish custom of trying rape cases in secret was a "flagrant denial of justice". Assange had been subject to "trial by media", and it was "hyperbolic and irrational to suggest there was wickedness involved" in Assange's sexual behaviour, he said.
All relationships had "moments of frustration, irritation and argument", he said. "It doesn't mean that the police are entitled to slip between the bedclothes."
The act of "minor rape" allegedly committed by Assange against the second woman would not be an extradition offence in English law, he said. After three "utterly consensual" sex acts, she had objected to Assange having sex with her again without a condom, but "she let him continue". "It's not natural to call this rape."
Outside court, Assange said that since August "a black box has been applied to my life. On the outside of that black box has been written the word rape. That box has now, thanks to an open court process, been opened. I hope in the next days you will see that the box is in fact empty."
The case continues.
- guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011