Assange Loses Swedish High Court Appeal of Arrest Warrant on Rape Charges
Sweden’s Supreme Court won’t consider WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal of his arrest warrant on rape charges.
“The Supreme court has reviewed the material and hasn’t found any reasons for granting leave to appeal,” the Stockholm- based court said today in an e-mailed statement. The court only considers cases that may set a precedent or where there are “special circumstances,” such as new evidence, according to its website.
Interpol put Assange on its wanted list after a Stockholm district court issued a warrant for his arrest on Nov. 18 at the request of prosecutor Marianne Ny, who said she had been unable to question him. The Svea Court of Appeal on Nov. 24 ruled against Assange’s appeal, while saying the rape charge should be reduced to a “less serious” degree. The 39-year-old Australian is also suspected of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.
WikiLeaks drew condemnation from the U.S. this week for posting on its website thousands of classified State Department documents. WikiLeaks.org, created in 2006, receives confidential material and posts the information on the Internet “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” the organization says on its website.
The alleged crimes, which involve two women, took place in Stockholm and Enkoeping, while Assange was in Sweden lecturing about the publication of classified U.S. military documents about the war in Afghanistan.
Assange denies the charges and his lawyer in the U.K., Mark Stephens, has said that Assange had consensual sex with the women.
“This appears to be a persecution and a prosecution,” Stephens said in an e-mail yesterday. He said Assange has repeatedly sought meetings with the Swedish prosecutor. “But his requests have either been ignored or met with a refusal.”
Stephens regularly represents several media organizations, including Bloomberg News.
Stephens and Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjoern Hurtig weren’t immediately available to comment today.
A rape sentence normally leads to between two and six years in prison and if it is deemed “less serious” to a maximum of four years in jail, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Mikael Bjoerk said today in a phone interview.
Sex Crime Decisions
Ny started her preliminary investigation in September after a lawyer representing the two women appealed another prosecutor’s decision to drop the rape charge and reduce molestation charges. Ny heads the Prosecution Authority Development Center in Gothenburg, which handles appeals against prosecutor decisions on sex crimes.
Less than 1 percent of all Swedish prosecutors’ decisions, or about 2,000, were appealed in 2008, according to the prosecution authority’s website. The original decision was changed in 220 cases.
Assange, born in Townsville, Australia, began as a computer hacker in his native country and pleaded guilty in 1996 to 24 counts of violating the Crimes Act by accessing and inserting information into computers, including those of Nortel Networks Corp. He received a fine and three years probation.
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