WIKILEAKS crusader Julian Assange appeared at Britain’s High Court last night with a fresh legal team to appeal an extradition order to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sex crimes against two women.
Ben Emmerson QC, acting for Mr Assange, told Lord Justice Roger Thomas and Justice Duncan Ouseley that the British District Court judge who ordered the extradition got it wrong because of misleading statements in the arrest warrant issued in Sweden.
“There was no violence in the facts . . . but it’s there in the EAW (European arrest warrant), hence the judge goes wrong,” Mr Emmerson said.
Mr Assange, aged 40, wearing a dark suit and shiny blue tie and with his hair neatly cut, sat behind his legal counsel with his new lawyer Gareth Pierce beside him. His features were set grim and his eyes flicked constantly between Mr Emmerson and the judges.
Replacing barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, who had appeared for Assange in the District Court hearing, Mr Emmerson took a conciliatory stance. He focused solely on the question of whether the alleged offences could “reasonably resemble anything that could be called rape in this country”, meaning Britain, and contended that for the most part they could not.
During the morning hearing, Mr Emmerson did not reiterate Mr Assange’s previous contention that he would not receive a fair trial in Sweden or that extradition would infringe on his human rights. He also stressed that Mr Assange did not deny that the woman might have found his sexual behaviour “disrespectful, discourteous (or) disturbing . . . or even pushing the boundary of what they feel comfortable with”.
The court heard intimate details of four sexual encounters that took place in August 2010 with two Swedish women, one of whom was a WikiLeaks volunteer, while Mr Assange was in Sweden.
One of the alleged victims, whom the court has requested be identified only as AA in the media, alleged Mr Assange raped her, saying he had initially lain on top of her and pinned her down but that she had then agreed to “let him” have sex with her on the condition he used a condom.
Her decision to complain to the police had been in part prompted by her discovery that the condom had broken.
The second victim alleged she had been molested by Assange when he had sex with her while she had been asleep – an offence described as “minor rape”. Mr Emmerson told the court it was in dispute whether the woman had been asleep or “half-asleep”.