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Julian Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, wrote an article in the Guardian defending his client after the Court ruled against them. (Credit: Guardian, screenshot detail)

More than two weeks after his extradition hearing started, Julian Assange was ordered extradited back to Sweden for questioning about “accusations of sexual abuse.”

Assange intends to appeal the extradition, and has seven days from the Feb. 24 hearing in which to do so.  According to Wired, Assange is still released on bail.

Besides the hearing, Assange is supposedly at work on his memoir, which is set to be published in April of this year. As iMediaEthics previously reported, Assange said he doesn’t “want to write this book,” but that he has to in order to pay legal costs.  Assange commented in January, according to the New York Times, that he “hoped” his book “will become one of the unifying documents of our generation.”

Mark Stephens

Commenting on the ruling, Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, stated “I think, [it was] reasonably to be expected.  It reaffirms the concerns that we had about the form of tick-box justice that is the European Arrest Warrant…What the judge has done is confirm that system is just that.”

According to the Telegraph, Stephens “did not blame” the judge, “suggesting instead that he was ‘hamstrung.'”

“We’re pretty sure the secrecy and the way (the case) has been conducted so far have registered with this judge…We have to remember that at this point Julian remains uncharged.”

WikiLeaks tweeted Feb. 24 and 25 linking to reports on the extradition hearing and including a link to an article by Mark Stephens in The Guardian titled “Demand open justice for Julian Assange.”

Stephens wrote:

“Julian Assange will, according to the judge’s finding of fact, be held in prison in solitary confinement when he is returned to Sweden and will then be interrogated, held without bail and later subjected to a secret trial on accusations that have been bruited around the world, not least by this newspaper. He has a complete answer to these charges, which he considers false and baseless. “

Stephens criticized the European Arrest Warrant system and the “custom of holding all rape trials behind closed doors” in Sweden.

Read Stephens’ whole post here.

Extradition Hearing

Forbes noted that the judge, Howard Riddle, “didn’t address whether Assange is guilty of the sexual misconduct alleged by the two Swedish women, accusations which haven’t yet resulted in formal charges.”

The Guardian reported :”Assange fears that being taken to Sweden will make it easier for Washington to extradite him to the U.S. on possible charges relating to WikiLeaks’s release of the U.S. embassy cables.”  But, Sweden couldn’t extradite him to the United States without first asking the UK.

The Australian reported that the four accusations all “meet the criteria for extradition offences.”  In response, Julian Assange reportedly called the accusations “incredible lies” and Sweden “the Saudi Arabia of feminism.” The Guardian noted that Assange “did not give evidence” during the hearing.

In the ruling, see here, Riddle, stated that while Assange “being treated as a suspect was leaked to the press” is a violation of confidentiality, it’s “apparently not actionable in Sweden.”

Riddle further criticized Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig for his “untrue” witness statement that Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny “made no effort to interview” Assange before Assange left Sweden in September.

According to Riddle, Hurtig “says he realised the mistake the night before giving evidence. He did correct the statement in his evidence in chief (transcript p.83 and p.97). However, this was very low key and not done in a way that I, at least, immediately grasped as significant. It was only in cross-examination that the extent of the mistake became clear.”

“Mr Hurtig must have realised the significance of paragraph 13 of his proof when he submitted it. I do not accept that this was a genuine mistake. It cannot have slipped his mind. For over a week he was attempting (he says without success) to contact a very important client about a very important matter. The statement was a deliberate attempt to mislead the court. It did in fact mislead Ms Brita Sundberg-Weitman and Mr Alhem. Had they been given the true facts then that would have changed their opinion on a key fact in a material way.”

Riddle went on to call Hurtig “an unreliable witness” because Hurtig doesn’t have any “record of those attempts” to contact Assange between Sept. 21 and Sept. 29 for an interview with the Swedish prosecutor.

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Regarding extradition to the United States, Riddle wrote:

“It may be worth adding that I do not know if Sweden has an extradition treaty with the United States of America. There has been no evidence regarding this. I would expect that there is such a treaty. If Mr Assange is surrendered to Sweden and a request is made to Sweden for his extradition to the United States of America, then article 28 of the framework decision applies.”

In conclusion, Riddle decided:  “In fact as I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant’s Convention rights, I must order that Mr Assange be extradited to Sweden.”

Christine Assange on Extradition

The Australian Associated Press reported that Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, said regarding her son: “I would say that what we’re looking at here is political and legal gang rape of my son. It’s a real David and Goliath situation.”  Christine Assange claimed that “You’ve got misuse of the European arrest warrant, first time ever that it’s been used this way.”

She went on to say:

“What Julian through his site is proving (is) the need for WikiLeaks.  I’m, obviously, scared for him as a mother but the world ought to be scared for its democracies.

“The greatest fear I have is that the Western world in its effort to shut up someone who’s telling the truth to the people of their countries will breach every piece of legislation in order to get him and will co-operate across borders to do so.”

PayPal Reactivates BradleyManning.org’s Account

BradleyManning.org, an advocacy group for Bradley Manning, claimed that its PayPal account was frozen because PayPal wanted to have access to “withdraw funds from our organization’s checking account by default.”  PayPal has confirmed and reinstated the account.

BradleyManning.org’s original Feb. 24 press release announced that its account was frozen.  The group’s Jeff Paterson claimed that

“We exchanged numerous emails and phone calls with the legal department and the office of executive escalations of PayPal.  They said they would not unrestrict our account unless we authorized PayPal to withdraw funds from our organization’s checking account by default. Our accounting does not allow for this type of direct access by a third party, nor do I trust PayPal as a business entity with this responsibility given their punitive actions against WikiLeaks-an entity not charged with any crime by any government on Earth.”

PayPal addressed the suspension in a statement on its blog.  PayPal’s communications director Anuj Nayar  wrote on Feb. 24:

“While it is generally not our policy to comment publicly on account dealings, we are sharing the following statement to clarify information regarding the Courage To Resist organization’s PayPal account and their claim that this is somehow associated with their support of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Let me be clear, this decision had nothing to do with WikiLeaks.”

Instead, as PayPal stated, Courage to Resist’s account was “temporarily” put on hold because its PayPal account didn’t have a bank account attached to the account, which is a PayPal requirement for nonprofits.

“In a press release issued today, the Courage to Resist organization claimed that their resistance to follow our policy is because PayPal sought to withdraw funds from their checking account. To be clear: PayPal cannot take such action without the authorization of an account holder, nor does it ever take such unauthorized actions.

“Upon review, and as part of our normal business procedures, we have decided to lift the temporary restriction placed on their account because we have sufficient information to meet our statutory ‘Know Your Customer’ obligations. The Courage to Resist PayPal account is now fully operational.”

BradleyManning.org confirmed that its account was “reinstated” and noted that more than 10,000 people “signed the petition hosted by Firedoglake” calling for PayPal to reinstate BradleyManning.org’s PayPal account.  According to Firedoglake’s site, 15,000 people signed the petition.

BradleyManning.org’s Advisory Board includes Daniel Ellsberg and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore as well as Icelandic Parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir, among others.

See iMediaEthics’ previous coverage of WikiLeaks here.

CORRECTION - June 14, 2012 10:00 PM

Fixed headline error to indicate, as story does, that there aren’t charges against Assange.

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UK Judge Orders Julian Assange to be Extradited to Sweden for Questioning

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