A Swedish prosecutor attempting to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face sex charges was accused of having a “biased view” against men yesterday.
Retired Swedish appeal court judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman launched an outspoken attack on the authorities responsible for an arrest warrant in the whistleblower’s name.
She was flown to London by Mr Assange’s legal team to give evidence supporting their argument that extraditing him would be a “flagrant denial of justice”.
Speaking in the witness box at Woolwich Crown Court, sitting as Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, she said she could not understand the “attitude” of prosecutor Marianne Ny.
Mrs Sundberg-Weitman, a published academic and associate professor at Stockholm University, accused Ms Ny of having a “rather biased view against men”.
She added: “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.”
The claims were made on the first day of a two-day hearing that will decide whether Mr Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, should be sent to Sweden.
He is wanted by police over allegations he sexually assaulted one woman and raped another during a visit to Stockholm last August.
Mr Assange’s legal team argue extradition would breach his human rights and fear he could ultimately be taken against his will to the United States and executed.
But a barrister representing the Swedish authorities said the fears are unfounded, the proper legal process is being followed and Mr Assange has a case to answer.
Under questioning by Mr Assange’s barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, Mrs Sundberg-Weitman said the whole situation was “extremely peculiar”.
The former judge said issuing a European arrest warrant was not proportionate to the allegations and questioned why Assange was not questioned while he remained in Sweden.
Speaking about Ms Ny, Mrs Sundberg-Weitman added: “I honestly cannot understand her attitude here, it looks malicious. It would have been so simple to have him heard while he was in Sweden. After he left Sweden it would also have been very easy to have him questioned by telephone, video link or at an embassy.” Mrs Sundberg-Weitman criticised the authorities for revealing that Mr Assange was under investigation for rape and warned he has been subjected to trial by media.
In an unusual move, Mr Assange’s legal team released a 74-page outline of their arguments against his extradition as the two-day hearing got under way.
The largely technical challenges focused on the status of Swedish officials, the validity of the European arrest warrant and claims his human rights would be breached.
Assange arrived under an extraordinary media spotlight as reporters from around the world laid siege to the courthouse and queued around the block to claim tickets to watch.
He is supported by a number of high-profile campaigners, including Bianca Jagger, socialite Jemima Khan and veteran left-winger Tony Benn. Some of them will attend a Defend WikiLeaks rally in central London tonight organised by the Stop the War Coalition.
Asked by Ms Montgomery what evidence she had for her view that Ms Ny was a “well-known radical feminist”, other than an interview with her she had read, Mrs Sundberg-Weitman said: “I’ve seen a bit of her career and she’s giving lectures to judges.”
Ms Montgomery suggested that this was perhaps not surprising given that Ms Ny was a rape and sexual and domestic violence prosecutor.
Pressed on what she had founded her opinions on, Mrs Sundberg-Weitman told the court that her view of Ms Ny’s behaviour was based on hearing her on the radio, seeing her on television and reading her comments on the prosecutor’s website.
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