Chaos in the Swedish Prosecution of Assange
And remarkably enough, it has nothing to do with Assange himself. On the contrary:
The top Swedish prosecutor pursuing sexual assault charges against Julian Assange has abruptly left the case and one of Mr Assange’s accusers has sacked her lawyer.
The turmoil in the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s effort to extradite Mr Assange comes as another leading Swedish judge prepares to deliver an unprecedented public lecture in Australia next week on the WikiLeaks publisher’s case.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority want to extradite Mr Assange to have him questioned in Stockholm in relation to sexual assault allegations by two women.
Fairfax Media has obtained Swedish court documents that reveal high-profile Swedish prosecutor Marianne Nye has unexpectedly left the handling Mr Assange’s case, effective from Wednesday, and has been replaced by a more junior prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren. The reasons for the change have not yet been disclosed.
One of Mr Assange’s two accusers, political activist Anna Ardin, also applied to the Swedish courts on February 28 to replace her controversial lawyer Claes Borgstrom. Ms Ardin complained that she found Mr Borgstrom spent much more time talking to the media than to her, referred her inquiries to his secretary or assistant, and that she had lost faith in him as her legal representative.
As well as pursuing the prosecution of Mr Assange, Mr Borgstrom has been heavily criticised for his handling of another high-profile case involving an alleged mass murderer, with one prominent Swedish commentator describing him as doing “the worst defence counsel job in modern Swedish history”.
Ms Ardin’s engagement of a new lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, has now been approved.
News of changes in the Swedish prosecution of Mr Assange comes shortly before Swedish Supreme Court judge Stefan Lindskog delivers a keynote lecture on “the Assange affair, and freedom of speech, from the Swedish perspective” at the University of Adelaide next Wednesday.
Justice Lindskog is chairman of the Supreme Court of Sweden, the country’s highest court of appeal. In announcing his forthcoming lecture, Adelaide University observed that “as one of Sweden’s most eminent jurists, he is uniquely able to provide an authoritative view of the Assange affair”.
In an article in today’s Australian Financial Review the judge observes that he finds it “amusing how the Assange case offers possibilities of sharp turns when it comes to topics to be discussed. From, on the one hand, whether lies about condoms can result in a sexual crime to, on the other, the question of if telling the truth, by publishing classified information, can amount to a crime permitting extradition to the state that claims being harmed.”
Greg Barns, a barrister spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said it was a fundamental legal principle that judges do not speak publicly on matters that are likely to come before the courts or are yet to be decided.
“That a Swedish supreme court judge thinks this is acceptable tends to confirm the fears people have about the impartiality and robustness of the Swedish judicial system. It gives great currency to the belief that Mr Assange’s case in Sweden has been heavily politicised.
As I said, chaos. It will be interesting to see what the Swedish judge has to say in Adelaide. If I weren’t currently in the US for the ASIL conference, I would have made the trip to see him speak…