WikiLeaks' Assange's defense says he won't receive fair trial in Sweden

As the extradition trial in Britain ended, the defense for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argued that the Swedish prime minister's recent comments have 'vilified' Assange in Sweden.

Matt Dunham/AP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds an umbrella to shelter from rain as he arrives at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Feb. 11. Assange returned to court Friday for final arguments in a extradition trial.

The extradition trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange adjourned today in Britain amid claims by Assange's defense that he will be unable to receive a fair trial in Sweden.

Assange's lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, argues that inflammatory remarks by the Swedish prime minister have made Mr. Assange "public enemy No. 1" in Sweden and that bias against him would preclude him from receiving a fair trial. He requested that the judge refuse to extradite Assange, Reuters reports.

According to The Telegraph, Mr. Robertson also asked for the trial to be adjourned so that he could bring in witnesses from Sweden to testify on the effect of the Swedish prime minister's comments on the public opinion of Assange. That request was denied. According to Robertson, Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt also “accused Mr. Assange of claiming women’s rights are worthless" and described his comments as "devastating vilification."

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Reinfeldt lashed out against Assange and his defense for arguing that Sweden's extradition request was politically motivated, the Financial Times reports.

“I can only defend what everyone in Sweden already knows: that we have an independent, non-coerced judiciary,” Mr Reinfeldt said.

His remarks reflected anger among many Swedes over defence claims that Mr Assange was the victim of a “malicious” feminist prosecutor and would be denied a fair trial in the Scandinavian country.

Sweden wants Assange extradited to face questioning on sexual assault allegations that came to light last year. Assange denies any wrongdoing in the encounters in question.(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred to "charges" against Assange. He has not been charged.)

Assange's defense has also argued that the Swedish extradition request was made in order to make it easier to extradite him to the US, where he is wanted for arrest on national security grounds. It's unclear what exactly he would be charged with by the US, but Assange's lawyers claim that he could be subject to the death penalty, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

His defense has been successful at casting some doubt on the credibility of the Swedish legal system, which could ultimately help Assange's case, according to the Monitor.

While he has denied the [allegations], Assange and his defense team have skillfully presented the image of an unfair and compromised Swedish judiciary to bolster their case against extradition.

Normally cited as an example of good governance, Sweden is now fending off attacks from Assange's lawyers who charge the country is pursuing their client at the behest of the US for leaking classified government and military documents.

The trial was adjourned until Feb. 24, when the judge will announce his decision on the extradition. In the meantime, Assange was released on bail under the same conditions as before: wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and following a strict curfew, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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