The website justice4assange is frequently linked to by wikileaks. How reliable is the information there? It is a big site, so we have chosen just the February hearing to analyse, as it is not a long page, and there is plenty of information about this hearing that we have to hand – though we will be sticking to the court findings for the most part.
The whole page (excluding headers and footers) is 2267 words. Here’s a quick wordcount for each section.
|Detailed defence outline||894||39.4%|
|The Hearing (Assange arguments)||452||19.9%|
|The Hearing (other arguments)||0||0.0%|
|The Judgment (list of issues addressed, no detail)||32||1.4%|
|The Judgment (whether Hurtig misled court deliberately or by mistake)||88||3.9%|
|The Judgment (actual decisions and reasons)||0||0.0%|
|Criticisim of judgement||801||35.3%|
To add balance to this weighted view, we have decided to quote the court findings at length. We have not quoted in order, because it is vital to understand the role of Mr Hurtig and his evidence in order to understand the statements of the expert witnesses who based their opinions and arguments on the information that Hurtig originally supplied.
When you have finished reading our extracts from the court, we recommend that you visit the page we read, and compare it to the court record, as we have done.
Reading the main decisions of Judge Riddle and his reasons is also important: they can be found in the court findings on pages 9-10, and 20.
Most interesting quotes
Here’s a preview of what is in the full quotes below. These are direct quotes from the court findings, so we are quoting the Judge – though the judge sometimes quotes the witnesses directly.
Riddle on Bjorn Hurtig
Hurtig said: “I found it astonishing that Ms Ny, having allowed five weeks to elapse before she sought an interview with Mr Assange should now decide that it would be too late to hear his story if a further week elapsed”.
In cross-examination the Swedish lawyer confirmed that paragraph 13 of his proof of evidence is wrong…Ms Ny did contact him.. on 22nd September [Hurtig] sent a text to the prosecutors saying “I have not talked to my client since I talked to you”.. he has a message [still on his phone] from Ms Ny saying: “Hello – it is possible to have an interview Tuesday”. Next there was a message saying: “Thanks for letting me know. We will pursue Tuesday 28th at 1700”.
He agrees that he gave [the incorrect] information to Mr Alhem.
Riddle on Brita Sundberg-Weitman
She is not an expert in Mutual Legal Assistance… Her evidence is based upon the facts supplied to her by the defence lawyers…if the defence lawyer had told the prosecutor that he was unable to contact the defendant for interview, then the position would be different…
…she said [of the EAW] “I am clueless. I don’t know…” She said she is not an expert on extradition. The prosecution in this case was entitled to apply for an arrest warrant under Swedish law.
Riddle on Sven Erik Alhem
He was surprised that this defendant had not been detained in custody… He said that rape trials in Sweden are normally heard privately. He believes it is necessary…
…his understanding of the steps taken to interview Mr Assange comes from what he was told by Mr Hurtig… There is nothing wrong with the EAW issued for Mr Assange… he too, when he was a prosecutor, would have issued the EAW.
It would be “completely impossible to extradite Mr Assange to the USA without a media storm”. It is quite right to say that he would not be extradited to the USA.
Therefore it would have been beneficial to all involved in this strange investigation and at this late stage that Assange immediately agreed to be submitted to Sweden and allowed themselves to detailed questioning and thus finally leave his detailed version of events emerges as the basis for the charges against him.
Sadly, the expert testimony linked to from the page is no longer available. The firm of Finers Stephens Innocent LLP no longer represent Mr Assange. You can find a copy here.
Extended extracts from the court findings
Mr Hurtig gives a detailed account in his proof about his involvement in the case and the attempts he made to persuade the prosecutor to question Mr Assange as soon as possible. The lawyer was left with the impression that the rape case may be closed “withouteven bothering to interview him. On 27th September 2010, Mr Assange left Sweden”. While the defendant was abroad the defence offered him for interview in the week of 11th October, but the prosecutor vetoed the suggestion because “it was too far ahead”. “I found it astonishing that Ms Ny, having allowed five weeks to elapse before she sought an interview with Mr Assange should now decide that it would be too late to hear his story if a further week elapsed”.
In cross-examination the Swedish lawyer confirmed that paragraph 13 of his proof of evidence is wrong. The last five lines of paragraph 13 of his proof read: “in the following days [after 15th September] I telephoned [Ms Ny] a number of times to ask whether we could arrange a time for Mr Assange’s interview but was never given an answer, leaving me with the impression that they may close the rape case without even bothering to interview him. On 27th September 2010, Mr Assange left Sweden.” He agreed that this was wrong. Ms Ny did contact him. A specific suggestion was put to him that on 22nd September he sent a text to the prosecutors saying “I have not talked to my client since I talked to you”. He checked his mobile phone and at first said he did not have the message as he does not keep them that far back. He was encouraged to check his inbox, and there was an adjournment for that purpose. He then confirmed that on 22nd September 2010 at 16.46 he has a message from Ms Ny saying: “Hello – it is possible to have an interview Tuesday”. Next there was a message saying:
“Thanks for letting me know. We will pursue Tuesday 28th at 1700”. He then accepted that there must have been a text from him. “You can interpret these text messages as saying that we had a phone call, but I can’t say if it was on 21st or 22nd”. He conceded that it is possible that Ms Ny told him on the 21st that she wanted to interview his client. She requested a date as soon as possible. He agrees that the following day, 22nd, she contacted him at least twice.
…Then he was then cross-examined about his attempts to contact his client. To have the full flavour it may be necessary to consider the transcript in full. In summary the lawyer was unable to tell me what attempts he made to contact his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client of the risk of detention. He did not appear to accept that the risk was substantial or the need to contact his client was urgent. He said “I don’t think I left a message warning him”(about the possibility of arrest).
Mr Hurtig was asked why he told Brita Sundberg-Wietman that Ms Ny had made no effort to interview his client. He denied saying that and said he has never met her. He agrees that he gave information to Mr Alhem.
He agrees that where he had said in his statement (paragraph 51) that “I found it astonishing that Ms Ny, having allowed five weeks to elapse before she sought out interview”, then that is wrong. He had forgotten the messages referred to above. They must have slipped his mind.
It was suggested to him that a reason for the interrogation taking place in Sweden was that a DNA sample may be required. He seemed to me to at first agree and then prevaricate. He then accepted that in his submissions to the Swedish court he had said that the absence of DNA is a weakness in the prosecution case. He added “I can’t say if I told Ms Ny that Julian Assange had no intention of coming back to Sweden”. He agrees that at least at first he was giving the impression that Mr Assange was willing to come back.
In cross-examination the witness told me she is not an expert in Mutual Legal Assistance. She confirmed that she had no direct personal knowledge of what happened in this investigation before Mr Assange left Sweden. Her evidence is based upon the facts supplied to her by the defence lawyers.
[In her proof she said Ms Ny had made no effort to interview him before he left with her permission and knowledge on 27th September.] She confirmed that if the defence lawyer had told the prosecutor that he was unable to contact the defendant for interview, then the position would be different. “It would be a different case. However it didn’t happen like that”.
…When pressed as to the decision to issue an arrest warrant and what it involves she said: “I may be wrong”.
…When further matters about the EAW and the framework decision were put to her she said “I am clueless. I don’t know. I have no firm opinion. [as to the points that must be reached before a prosecutor issues an EAW for the purpose of prosecution].”
…She said she is not an expert on extradition. The prosecution in this case was entitled to apply for an arrest warrant under Swedish law.
Sven Erik Alhem
He was surprised that this defendant had not been detained in custody pending the investigation into the rape allegation.
…Thus it was quite wrong, in his view, for the prosecutor Ms Ny to decline the opportunity to interview Mr Assange. He believed that to issue the European Arrest Warrant without having first tried to arrange an interrogation in England at the earliest possible time via a request for Mutual Assistance offended against the principle of proportionality.
…He said that rape trials in Sweden are normally heard privately. He believes itis necessary to balance the integrity of the injured party against the principle of openness. Both parties might think it is a good thing that the whole trial is heard behind closed doors.
…In cross-examination he said his understanding of the steps taken to interview Mr Assange comes from what he was told by Mr Hurtig, the Swedish defence lawyer, and what he has read. [In his proof Mr Alhem said that “according to the information given to me, Prosecutor Ny declined the opportunity to interview Mr Assange after she took over the case on 1st September, despite the fact he remained in Sweden until 27th September 2010… I understand that the prosecutor declined the offer to meet for an interview simply because the police officer at the time was sick … it is catastrophic that so much time has passed without a very detailed interrogation having taken place.”]
…The account given by Ms Ny as to the factual steps taken to interview Mr Assange were put to him… There is nothing wrong with the EAW issued for Mr Assange. If it was the case that it was not possible to hold the interrogation hearing with the suspect earlier then he too, when he was a prosecutor, would have issued the EAW… He agreed that the evidential question as to the steps taken to interview Mr Assange is relevant and that he should have seen the relevant documentation before expressing his view. However even if Ms Ny’s account, which he heard in court today for the first time, is correct then that does not change his view that an interrogation should have taken place in England. He made it clear that the statement of Ms Ny does not correspond with the information he had been given by Mr Hurtig. Ms Ny “is allowed to seek an EAW – there is no doubt about that”. On the account given by Ms Ny it would have been a reasonable reaction to apply for an EAW. “Certainly, I would have done the same myself”.
…It would be “completely impossible to extradite Mr Assange to the USA without a media storm”. It is quite right to say that he would not be extradited to the USA.