Assange case judges reserve decision

(Agencies) – LONDON:Judges considering the extradition of Julian Assange need to find evidence of “monumental proportions” to excuse the Australian from facing sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

That is the argument of prosecutors who have already convinced one British judge of the need for the WikiLeaks founder to return to Stockholm where two women claim to have been victim to his forceful and at times violent sexual actions in August 2010.

In February Assange, now 40, was ordered to return to Sweden by Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, who dismissed claims by defence lawyers that the extradition was without legal basis and would result in a violation of human rights.

Assange has appealed the extradition order in Britain’s High Court, overseen by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley, who have heard a second day of argument over the detail of a European Arrest Warrant which alleges three counts of sexual assault and one of rape against two women on two separate occasions.

Assange has not been charged and denies the allegations, including that he deliberately broke a condom to have unprotected sex, saying that on each occasion sex was consensual and that Judge Riddle’s extradition order was “wrong”.

“If a woman chooses to spend the night in a single bed with a male, there is an inevitable possibility that she will come into contact with an erect penis at some time,” barrister Ben Emmerson, QC, told the court.

Lawyers for Assange further argued that the extradition warrant fails to meet points of law, including that he is not named for prosecution, but instead simply wanted for questioning, which could be done by phone.

However prosecutor Clare Montgomery, QC, said that the warrant is valid and contains allegations capable of justifying criminal charges.

“Those charges as claimed are substantiated by probable cause,” she told the court.

“With that as a factual background, your Lords would need evidential clarity of quite monumental proportions to displace what the (Swedish) prosecutor has complained about.”

Comparing evidence in the arrest warrant to that detailed in a prosecution dossier and not yet made available to the court, Ms Montgomery said the particulars are essentially the same.

“In my opinion, when one does that (comparison) it is perfectly plain that what one is looking at is not only … non-consensual, coerced sex …. but that that is clearly the only inference that can be drawn from the claimants,” she said.

“They did not freely consent … (but) were coerced either by physical force or after having been trapped into a position where they couldn’t (refuse) and … they let him continue.

“If what they say matters, they are clearly describing violent sex acts where there was no reason to believe consent had been granted.”

Montgomery accused Assange’s lawyers of “19th Century conceptions of consent”, adding that in contemporary law, consent to share a bed, or even engage in foreplay, does not translate to consent to have intercourse.

Furthermore, to Assange’s desire to engage in unprotected sex,  Montgomery referred to a witness statement made by one of the complainants that: “(Assange) preferred virgins because he would be the first to impregnate them”.

Emmerson said the allegations needed to be considered in their entirety and not with the “socially desirable interpretations of consent” suggested by the prosecution.

The judges have reserved their decision in the appeal and will hand down their findings at a date to be confirmed.