26 February 2011
Can Assange receive a fair trial in Sweden?
It is impossible for any impartial court to convict Julian Assange on the evidence.
On 25 February 2010, the day after Julian Assange lost his case against extradition to Sweden in a London magistrate’s court, his solicitor, Mark Stephens, wrote an article in The Guardian arguing that Assange could not receive a fair trial in Sweden.
Stephens correctly emphasised that Assange, if extradited, would be held in solitary confinement pending interrogation and trial, and that the hearing of evidence would be in camera with no opportunity for Assange’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses. Moreover, instead of a jury, assessors appointed by Swedish political parties would determine guilt.
All this amounts to a deficiency in justice, particularly as the evidence against Assange appears unreliable and there are suggestions of political manipulation. Justice in this case which is not seen to be done cannot ever be done.
Yet in his article Assange’s solicitor fails to mention the fundamental reason for Assange not being able to receive a fair trial in Sweden, with Stephen’s reticence presumably due to the fact that the argument is inadmissible in the British courts. Quite simply, it is impossible for any impartial court to convict Julian Assange on the evidence, all of which is now in the public domain and subject to public scrutiny.
The complainants, Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, have made allegations which Assange has denied, but the circumstantial evidence in the case all piles up to suggest that the women’s allegations are not true.
One of two situations must therefore apply. Either the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, is pursuing Assange with no hope of a successful prosecution; or there is indeed a court in Sweden which could convict on the basis of this unreliable evidence. In either situation it would be wrong to extradite Assange.
Julian Assange is appealing the decision of the magistrate’s court. A successful challenge to the issuing of the European Arrest Warrant on technicalities may or may not be possible – though I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nevertheless, we should not forget the key reason, even if is never argued in a British court.
Photo: Mark Stephens