WikiLeaks’ founder’s rape smear claims ‘nonsense’
A LAWYER for two Swedish women says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sexually molested his clients.
And he dismissed as “pure nonsense” the idea that their complaints were part of a high-level smear campaign against the Australian.
As Swedish prosecutors prepared to decide overnight whether to press molestation charges against Mr Assange, 39, lawyer Claes Borgstrom said: “All this talk about the CIA or Pentagon being behind this – it simply has no substance.”
He was referring to Twitter posts and interviews in which Mr Assange denied wrongdoing and called the allegations a “dirty trick”. Mr Assange has linked the scandal to the Pentagon, but a Pentagon spokesman said that was “absurd”.
Mr Assange has hired a high-profile Swedish defence lawyer, Leif Silbersky – also co-author of a long line of crime novels – who said his client was innocent and a “victim of an abuse of law”.
“There have been a number of legal twists and turns, with rape (allegations) boiling down to something different, and we don’t know where this will end,” Mr Silbersky said.
Mr Borgstrom, who was Sweden’s gender equality ombudsman from 2000 to 2007, said the allegations were made by two Swedish women, who asked him to represent them a few days ago. He declined to name or give details about the women, other than they were aged between 25 and 35.
Both women met Mr Assange when he arrived in Sweden recently to give a lecture, Mr Borgstrom said. The women did not know each other before their encounters with Mr Assange, he said.
He said the encounters took place within a few days of each other at two different locations, within the past week or so.
The women went to the police on Friday. Mr Borgstrom declined to say how the women had met, except to say both attended the lecture Mr Assange gave in Stockholm.
The back-and-forth is the latest example of the intensifying scrutiny of Mr Assange since WikiLeaks released 76,000 classified US military documents last month about the war in Afghanistan.
Mr Assange plans to publish up to 15,000 more documents soon. The Pentagon has said he should hand back all documents and remove them from the WikiLeaks website.
The focus on Mr Assange took an unexpected turn on the weekend when the Swedish Prosecution Authority said it was seeking to arrest him over allegations of rape and molestation.
Hours later, prosecutors dropped the rape investigation, saying there were no grounds, but the molestation investigation continued.
Mr Silbersky was highly critical of the way prosecutors have handled the case – particularly of how one prosecutor confirmed for a Swedish newspaper that Mr Assange was a suspect.
“Both my client and his company have suffered major damage from all the attention,” he said.