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      Wednesday
      Jul132011

      Assange Legal Team Catches Fire

      LONDON. Lawyers for Julian Assange appeared to shred the prosecution case against the WikiLeaks founder in London’s Royal Court today in a climactic end to a two-day appeal of his extradition to Sweden. The final decision may not be handed down by the two-judge panel until August or later.

      Meanwhile Assange supporters were pleased at the courtroom opportunity to respond to a Swedish prosecutor’s allegations of unlawful sexual coercion, sexual molestation and minor rape against two Swedish women last August. The Swedish case was presented by Clare Montgomery, a top British extradition expert whose past clients include Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whom she defended against extradition to a Spanish court.

      Montgomery started the day by charging Assange several times with engaging in “non-consensual coercive sex”, using physical force and denying the women free choice or consent. She accused barrister Ben Emmerson of defending “nineteenth century legal concepts”, referring to century-old sexual abuses against women. In the cases alleged against Assange, he was accused of holding down the arms and trying to spread the legs of Anna Arden while she was struggling to find a condom, having unprotected sex without her knowledge, breaking a condom, pressing his naked penis against her body, and entering a second woman, Sophia Wilen, without a condom when she was half-asleep. Such charges have circulated in the global media since last August, significantly damaging Assange’s reputation and diverting public attention away from the WikiLeaks disclosures about official secrets about Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Emmerson raised the courtroom energy level as he systematically answered the charges. The prosecution’s entire case, he pointed out, is based on a novel legal claim that a crime can be identified and committed as an isolated stage within an act of sexual intercourse that begins and ends in consent. For example, the prosecution claims that the act of pressing his erect penis against Ardin’s body was a sexual offense despite the context of the two individuals lying naked together in a single bed. In the example of lying atop Ardin while pressing her arms and legs, the prosecution claimed it was irrelevant that the two went to bed together, that Assange stopped the pressure when he learned Ardin was reaching for a condom, and that the two continued consensual sex. In another example, the prosecution claimed Assange entered Sophia Wilen while half-asleep, ignoring as irrelevant the facts that they had made love three previous times that night and resumed again after she was awake, consensually.

      The defense case rests on whether there were reasonable grounds, looking at all the circumstances, for Assange to have formed an opinion that the sexual intercourse was consensual. For acts committed in the UK which might be illegal in Sweden, the prosecutor must state the allegations in fair and accurate terms, including any immediate surrounding circumstances.

      Emmerson denounced Montgomery’s arguments as “crazy” and asked at one point, “Do I need to go any further? I don’t need to, but I will.”

      Montgomery also misstated testimony to police by a friend of Ardin known as P (Marie Thorne) shortly after the August episode. According to Montgomery, Thorne told police that Ardin said the sex went beyond what she had consented to. In fact, the police file shows that the affair “didn’t go the way she wanted” and that “the police railroaded her.”

      “The railroading has continued in these proceedings today,” asserted another Assange attorney, Mark Summers.

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