Julian Assange’s court fight continues, with prosecutors accusing the Wikileaks founder of coercion
The trial of Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblowing site, continues at the High Court in London.
Assange is fighting a court ruling in February that approved Sweden’s attempt to extradite him for questioning over allegations of sexual assault against two women.
Assange remained mostly silent during the appeal, and avoided his usual lengthy post-court speeches. His defence team made the case for why Assange should not be extradited to Sweden, claiming that he had not used violence or molested the women – contrary to the charges levelled in the European Arrest Warrant.
Coercion And Physical Force
The prosecution lawyers, acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, lost little time in hitting back at Assange’s claims.
According to AFP, Clare Montgomery QC, who is acting for the Swedish authorities, rejected the defence’s closing arguments that a rape allegation against him would not count as such under English law.
Montgomery accused Ben Emmerson, one of Assange’s defence lawyers, of “winding English law back to the 19th century” with his definition of consent.
“They (the alleged victims) are describing circumstances in which they did not freely consent without coercion,” Montgomery said. “They were forced either by physical force or by the sense of being trapped into the position where they had no choice and therefore submitted to Mr Assange’s intentions.”
She also took issue with one particular point, regarding the allegation that one of the women apparently woke up to find Assange having sex with her without a condom.
“She may later have acquiesced in it… but that didn’t make the initial penetration anything other than an act of rape she had not consented to,” said Montgomery.
“This woman had never had unprotected sex and it was a very important issue to her,” Montgomery was quoted as saying.
Assange, for his part, has consistently denied the charges. He was arrested in December in the UK over allegations he had sexually assaulted two female WikiLeaks supporters in Sweden in August.
The arrest triggered a media storm as WikiLeaks was in the middle of publishing 250,000 confidential cables from US embassies. Assange and his supporters believe the extradition to be politically motivated, and suspect a plot to have him eventually brought to the US.
Assange, meanwhile, has been living under strict bail conditions at a friend’s mansion in Norfolk, where he is forced to wear an electronic ankle tag and obey a curfew.