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Is Freedom of Information on Trial, or Just a Man Named Julian Assange?

Is Freedom of Information on Trial, or Just a Man Named Julian Assange?

The extradition hearing for Julian Assange on allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion of two Swedish women in August of 2010 entered its second day on Tuesday. As the hearing did not conclude within the two days allotted, it willto continue on Friday, February 11, for an extra half-day. A judgement is not expected until next week with both the Swedish prosecutors and Assange’s lawyers likely to appeal, depending on the the verdict. And even after that, the case is likely to drag on for months, as Assange’s lawyers have suggested that they might carry on their client’s suit to European courts.

 

Some new details emerged at the hearing. According to the Guardian, Björn Hurtig, who is representing Assange in Sweden, told the court that

…he had been shown “about 100″ messages sent between the women and their friends while supervised by a Swedish police officer, but had not been permitted to make notes or share the contents with his client.
“I consider this to be contrary to the rules of a fair trial,” he said. A number of the messages “go against what the claimants have said”, he told the court.

In some of the texts, the two women ‘speak of “revenge” and extracting money’ from Assange, according to Hurtig.

Also at the hearing, more details emerged regarding Assange’s whereabouts when requested for questioning by Swedish authorities. In a contradiction to statements made earlier by Assange and his lawyers, Hurtig said that Swedish prosecutors had tried to interview Assange before he left the country for the UK:

Hurtig told the extradition hearing that he had been wrong to assert that the prosecutor Marianne Ny had made no active attempt to interview Assange between her appointment to the case, on 1 September last year, and 27 September, when Assange left the country with her permission.

Another witness, a former Swedish prosecutor, Sven-Erik Alhem, stated that Swedish prosecutors did not follow the ‘proper procedure.’ As reported in the BBC, Alhem said that ‘it was “quite peculiar” that authorities did not obtain the Wikileaks founder’s version of events before seeking his arrest.”‘ (Assange has yet to be formerly charged with any crimes by the Swedish authorities, who are requesting that he be extradited for questioning.)

However, when Alhem was asked what he would have done had he been in Assange’s situation, he replied that he would have ‘””have gone to Sweden to give my version of events……It would be very important to me to clear my name given I was innocent.”‘

In addition, prosecutors said that they had made repeated efforts to interview Assange, who was to contact:

Clare Montgomery QC, representing Swedish prosecutors, outlined how in September last year Mr Assange – who had been in the country – was invited 10 times to give his response, but his lawyers were unable to contact him.

Authorities made an unsuccessful search for him and then learned that the Wikileaks founder had left for the UK.

 

The attempts to interview him continued into October – Mr Assange offered to speak via videolink or phone, but this was turned down because of the seriousness of the allegations.

Swedish prosecutors decided he had become what they called an obvious flight risk and it was not unreasonable to detain him.

39-year-old Assange, an Australian citizen, is the founder of Wikileaks, the website that has published a vast trove of leaked cables from US diplomats, as well as from other governments and high-profile organizations. Assange has long contended that, should he be extradited to Sweden, he might then face extradition to the US where he would face far more serious charges of conspiracy. Assange and his lawyers have asserted that he might face incarceration in the Guantánamo Bay detention center and also, possibly, the death penalty. But as the February 8th New York Times points out, ‘although American officials have spent months reviewing the damage done by the leaks and considering possible criminal actions against Mr. Assange, he has not been indicted for making confidential documents public.’

Assange’s supporters, more than a few of who were present at the hearing, and some of whom have nominated him for a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, contend that it is ‘”freedom of information itself is on trial”‘—-or is it simply a man named Julian Assange who is being tried in court?

 

 

Previous Care2 Coverage

Julian Assange, Allegations of Rape, and Accountability

Updated: Julian Assange Arrested

Read more: , , , , , ,

Photo by Espen Moe (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_4739) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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12:47PM PST on Feb 25, 2011

The U.S. is putting Assange on trial for freedom of information. The government does not want us to know what is going on. If what was leaked, had hurt anyone, that would be one thing, but it showed conversations and incidents, embarrassing to the U.S.

What Cheney did, on the other hand, was to out a CIA agent for political gain -- that is TREASON. So far, the government has not gone after Cheney, nor do I expect it. In the eyes of the government, the PEOPLE are the real threat, because democracy is a real threat to the ones in power. (and I say this as an Obama supporter, what I would say of any party in power)

7:05AM PST on Feb 12, 2011

Assange released confidential information that could have put many people at risk and further released documents that could have destroyed hard won diplomatic contacts. He is no hero, with his avowed intention of bringing this country down. Where are the masses of documents stolen from European govs? Why is he not doing the same with italy or Denmark, or even better, Turkey? He's not because his beef is with the US. I do not understand how you people can put him on such a pedestal, when all he is is just a mean spirited little man eager to be the one to bring this country down.

11:54AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

I hope Assange created an organization that doesn't have to depend on him. Can Wikileaks get along without him if it has to?

10:30AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are heros of Freedom Of Speech and Freedom of Information.
The Big Media Giants are not completely in Control and they don't like it!
Americans and all Free Peoples of the World, have to stand up and fight for our rights before they are taken away from us!

6:44AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

I don't think that his case would have been prosecuted with as much zeal if he was just a random citizen and not the head of WikiLeaks. (Which doesn't necessarily mean he's innocent - or guilty - either)

11:36PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

I fear that this Swedish prosecution is indeed merely a ruse to enable the US govt to incarcerate a man who has simply exposed their dishonest or unethical behaviour. I wish him all thee best for doing a service to democracy, but fear that big business will probably win and he will be incarcerated without trial and possibly even tortured as revenge.

3:58PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Correction: I won't cast aspersions where I don't have the facts.

3:56PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

I won't cast aspersions where I have have the facts. I hope the truth prevails as does freedom of information.

12:26PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Rape is a crime- but, first we must prove there was rape here. How many millions of women are raped in all these countries and I don't see big, powerful governments going after all these millions of rapists! Why Assange? An unproven allegation of rape has the Swiss, US, UK and a lot of other people in a frenzy of revenge!!!! Is this furvour on account of rape or womens' rights or is it because Assange blew their cover that was screening off their nakedness or immorality, crimes against humanity and double standards? I say it is the latter!

I see these women with rape allegations against Assange in the same light as those shameless people who send their children to sleepovers at Michael Jackson's home and then claimed child molestattion. These are money hungry career criminals- why go to work to earn money when you can throw an innocent but rich man in jail and walk away with his loot!!!!

Rest in peace MJ!!! Assange, you are still here- but "they" want you in the same place as MJ- fight hard!!!! Fight against anarchy! Fight against thieves who make a career out of living off people who are sent to this world by some unseen higher power to clean up this world ! We are behind you forever!

US government is fighting for the right to keep committing human rights abuses abroad for selfish gains with total impunity while standing tall as the 'Great defender of Human Rights' and 'moral guardian' with a special permit to preach and castigate smaller countries on perceived 'H

8:02AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that, if you want to know who the "bad guys" are, just make a list of those people and groups that are trying to shut Assange up.

If you want to know who the criminals are, make a list of those who are trying to prosecute him.

It's really not that complicated.

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