4.30pm summary:The hearing has now finished for the day. Here is what happened:
• Clare Montgomery QC, for the crown, and Geoffrey Robertson QC, for the defence, made their opening arguments. Robertson concentrated on what he said was the impossibility of a fair trial for Assange in Sweden and disputed that the allegations state there was no consent. He said all happened within the context of consensual sex. Montgomery said in her opening that both the alleged rape and three counts of sexual assault were without consent and also offences under English law, therefore “extraditable”.
• Montgomery made an early rebuttal of the defence argument that Assange could not be extradited for questioning, only prosecution. She said the warrant brought against Assange “clearly denotes a sufficient intention to prosecute”. Robertson disputed that it could be a prosecuting warrant when Assange had been interrogated with no charges brought.
• Defence witness Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a retired Swedish judge, made an eye-catching attack on the “malicious” Swedish prosecutor. She said Marianne Ny had a “rather biased view against men” and is “so preoccupied with the situation of battered women and raped women that she has lost balance”. She was also cross-examined on the proportionality of the European arrest warrant by Montgomery, to which she replied that while she did not believe it was she acknowledged that two Swedish courts had.
• Robertson made technical arguments disputing the authority of Ny to serve a European arrest warrant .
• The hearing will resume at 10am tomorrow.
4.05pm:Before Rudung moves on to being cross-examined by Montgomery, he tells the court Swedish cannot distinguish between “want” and “consent”
When Montgomery picks up the questioning, she asks him how much of the police file he has read (he says 100 pages; she says what he has seen is witness statements sent to Assange’s lawyer) and asks him if he know why woman A deleted the tweets.
And with that the cross examination ends. The hearing is adjourned to 10am tomorrow.
Rudung tells the court of a seven-point plan for revenge written by woman A in January 2010 and proceeds to translate each one from Swedish.
3.45pm: Rudung is taking questions on woman A’s tweets. He says he contacted police after she deleted tweets from 14 and 15 August showing she had been happy with Assange. The tweets referred to a crayfish party where woman A said she was with “the coolest people in the world”. Rudung says he is not a supporter of Assange or WikiLeaks.
3.35pm: Robertson asks further questions of Sundberg-Weitman, producing English-language press releases from the Swedish prosecutor about the Assange case and asking “Is this normal?” She says no. He also asks if Ny was talking to press through the investigation period. Sundberg-Weitman says she saw her on TV.
Sundberg-Weitman is discharged and a second witness sworn in. It is Goran Rudung, who is described as a blogger and campaigner on Swedish rape laws, who thinks they are not strict enough since they don’t include consent.
3.10pm: Montgomery’s cross-examination is now on Sundberg-Weitman’s description of the Swedish prosecutor as “malicious”.
Montgomery leading BSW thru statement fm Sw Pros wch led her to call her ‘malicious’. Stage by stage asking ‘what is wrong with that’? # …less than a minute ago via txtesther addley
Other court tweeters have described the exchange as torturous.
The retired judge earlier told Montgomery that she may be right when the QC said that a case does not have to have reached a specific point before a European arrest warrant is issued.
2.40pm:A translator has been called in so Sundberg-Weitman can understand prosecuting QC Montgomery’s questions. Questioning has so far focused on whether the European arrest warrant served on Assange is proportional. Sundberg-Weitman says she does not believe so, but accepts that both the Swedish district court and an appeal court believed that it was.
Esther Addley tweets that Sundberg-Weitman has also contradicted herself under questioning on whether Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Björn Hurtig, was present at the appeal. Several tweets from the court note that the retired judge does not appear to have a very high opinion of the Swedish justice system, saying the rule of law there has been decaying since the mid 1970s; also that Montgomery is a formidable cross-examiner.
2.20pm: The court is returning from lunch.
Resuming shortly at court 3. Not clear, btw, if we’ll get a ruling tomo, crown barrister says unlikely #assangeless than a minute ago via txtesther addley
Coming this afternoon is prosecution cross-examination of Sundberg-Weitman and another defence witness.
1.30pm: The court has risen for lunch. Here is Esther Addley on the first morning’s session – and the evidence of the first defence witness, retired Swedish appeal judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman.
Listen! To listen to this Audioboo to the end, turn off automatic updates at the top of this page
According to the Press Association report, Sundberg-Weitman was critical of the Swedish authorities, saying the case was “extremely peculiar” from the start and accused the chief prosecutor of having a “rather biased view against men”. She said:
I honestly cannot understand her attitude here, it looks malicious. It would have been so simple to have him heard while he was in Sweden. After he left Sweden it would also have been very easy to have him questioned by telephone, video link or at an embassy.
Live blog: recap
12.30pmOpening arguments were this morning made in the hearing over whether Julian Assange will be extradited to Sweden over three charges of sexual assault against one woman and one of rape, against another.
• Clare Montgomery QC, acting for the Crown, began her opening argument disputing two of the defence’s key legal arguments – that the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, was not authorised to issue a European arrest warrant against Assange, and that the case was not “extraditable” because of differences between English and Swedish definitions of rape. She said both the alleged rape and three counts of sexual assault were without consent and also offences under English law.
• Geoffrey Robertson, QC, acting for the defence, argued that none of the three sexual assault allegations state there was no consent and that all happened within the context of consensual sex. On the rape allegations, he said what Swedish law called “minor rape” was not regarded as rape in other jurisdictions since it did not involve coercion, force or a lack of consent. He described “minor rape” as “a contradiction in terms”.
• Robertson also said Assange would not receive a fair trial in Sweden. He said the lack of public or press access to Swedish rape trials meant Assange would be denied a fair trial and the WikiLeaks founder would furthermore be subject to “trial by media”. He said Claes Borgström, the Swedish lawyer representing the two complainants, had villified Assange and would be in jail for contempt of court if he was in the UK.
• Montgomery addressed another key defence argument in her opening. The defence has said the European arrest warrant cannot be used for questioning, but she said the warrant brought against Assange “clearly denotes a sufficient intention to prosecute” and the fact that questioning may be required does not undermine its main purpose. Robertson disputed that it could be a prosecting warrant when Assange had been interrogated with no charges brought.
12.05pm: A Press Assocation report summarising Robertson’s earlier arguments on what he said was the impossibility of a fair trial in Sweden:
Mr Robertson argued that the huge amount of press coverage of events created a risk that Assange would receive a “trial by media”.
Front-page newspaper articles have described his client as a coward for refusing to return to Sweden and face justice, he said, adding: “There’s a danger this kind of media campaign, media vilification, will prejudice this secret trial.”
He pointed out that rape trials in Sweden are often held behind closed doors and that, unless the public and press were allowed to witness proceedings, Assange would not receive a fair trial. “That’s a compelling argument that there’s a real risk of a flagrant violation of his rights,” he said.
“Given the amount of vilification throughout the world that Mr Assange has faced – he’s been accused of being a coward and of vicious behaviour – it’s obviously unfair he should be taken under this warrant and then ushered into a secret court and then convicted or even acquitted. Even if he’s acquitted, the stigma will remain.”
11.54am:Robertson’s “more technical matters” (see 11.47am) are whether Ny, the Swedish prosecutor, was authorised to issue a European arrest warrant. The prosecuting QC addressed this as she outlined her case, saying that she was (see 10.26am). Robertson disputes this.
11.47am: Robertson is now onto the conduct of the Swedish prosecutor. He says Assange was willing to be interviewed on Skype at either the Swedish embassy in London or Scotland Yard but his offer was not accepted, so the European arrest warrant lacks proportionality. He says that Assange also offered himself for interview when he was in Sweden.
He concludes his opening (before moving on to “more technical matters”) by outling the four key points of his argument – unfair trial, double criminality, minor rape and proportionality.
11.40am: Robertson is continuing on the woman B allegations. He says there were “three utterly consensual acts” then a fourth with no condom “but she let him continue”. He adds that the two then had a jokey conversation.
11.31am: Robertson is now onto the rape allegations brought by woman B. He says the prosecution describes this as “minor rape”. He says: “That’s a contradiction in terms. Rape is not a minor charge.” He says what Swedish law calls minor rape is not called rape in other jurisdictions, since it does not involve coercion, force or a lack of consent. “It’s not natural to call this rape,” he says.
11.26am: Robertson says it is “hyperbolic and irrational to suggest there was wickedness involved”. He also says police are not “entitled to slip under the bedclothes”.
11.22am: Robertson moves on to the charges. He says none of the three brought by woman A state there was no consent. Woman A, he says, “admits she did consent” and all happened within the context of consensual sex. He adds that she asked Assange to put on a condom and he did.
11.18am: Robertson has said that Assange would not get bail in Sweden but be held “incommunicado”, perhaps to “soften him up for interrogation”.
11.15am: Robertson has moved onto Claes Borgström, the Swedish lawyer representing the two complainants. He describes him as “a politician who has been retained by these women”. He says “this man Borgström” has villified Assange and would be in jail for contempt of court if he was in the UK. (He says Borgström leaked the charges to the Swedish press.)
11.04am: And now Geoffrey Robertson QC is speaking for the defence. His opening argument is that Assange would not get a fair trial in Sweden because rape trials are held in the absence of the press or public. He describes such a closed-door trial as presenting the “risk of flagrant violation of his rights”.
11.01am: Montgomery has moved on to the Swedish justice system. She says Assange would get a fair trial and the possibility that extradition to Sweden would be followed by extradition to the US is a “hypothesis” that has not yet been established as a real risk. Montgomery adds that the UK would need to give its consent if a subsequent extradition took place.
10.56am:Björn Hurtig, Assange’s Swedish lawyer, will be cross-examined tomorrow, Montgomery says. It seems this will deal with defence claims that Assange has not seen the evidence against him and that he was offered for interview when he was in Sweden.
10.46am: Montgomery is addressing a key part of the defence argument, that Assange cannot be extradited for questioning, only for prosecution.
She says the European arrest warrant brought against Assange “clearly denotes a sufficient intention to prosecute” and the fact that questioning may be required does not undermine its main purpose. “There is no reason for any doubt for the purpose of the warrant, namely that it is for the purpose of prosecution,” she says.
Interrogation before prosecution is how the Swedish system proceeds in such cases, she says.
10.41am:C Back to Montgomery, who is representing the prosecution. She says that the three counts of sexual assault which Assange is accused of by woman A were also “without consent” and are therefore illegal under English law.
10.40am:Some colour from the Press Association report on Assange’s earlier arrival:
Supporters of the WikiLeaks founder whooped and clapped as he was driven through the security gates in a silver London taxi.
Some of them, dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay-style boiler suits and armed with anti-American placards, had been waiting since 8am
The “rubbish-strewn dual carriageway” running alongside the court was “lined with television trucks festooned with satellite dishes”, it adds, while Bianca Jagger was told she could not jump the queue.
10.33am: Montgomery says that the definition of rape in Swedish law is comparable to the definition in UK law so the case is “extraditable”. Of the woman who has made the allegation, she says: “Mr Assange had sexual intercourse with her and exploited the fact that she was asleep.” She says this is also an offence in English law.
10.26am: Clare Montgomery QC, acting for the prosecution, has begun to make her case. She says that the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny (see 10.04am), has been identified as an issuing authority for the European arrest warrant.
10.24am:The two complainants will be referred to as A and B, the court decides. Woman A accuses Assange of three counts of sexual assault, woman B accuses him of rape.
10.14am: Assange has confirmed his name and address to the judge. The hearing has begun.
10.10am:C Slight delay. Esther Addley has been spotting who is in the court. Baroness Helena Kennedy, civil rights lawyer, is on Assange’s legal team while Tony Benn, Bianca Jagger, Gavin MacFadyen, Andrew O’Hagan, Vaughan Smith and Jemima Khan are in the public gallery. She adds that Assange is “smiling, joking with male and female guards next to him in dock.”
10.04am:The first item in the seven-point defence argument is that the Swedish prosecutor does not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant (how Sweden is seeking to extradite Assange). According to the argument published last month, Assange’s defence team cites a previous case that established that the Swedish National Police Board was the country’s sole issuing authority.
10.02am: Assange is sat down and the hearing is about to begin. (Several media tweeters are however still in the queue. And tweeting about it.)
9.50am: Who, you may ask, is Andrew O’Hagan? Well, he is a Scottish writer and novelist who is also rumoured to be Assange’s ghostwriter. And he has been seen at the court as part of Assange’s party. “That’s one rumour confirmed, then?” tweets Esther Addley.
9.45am: Esther Addley tweets that the court is filling up:
So far have seen press from Aus, NZ, Germany, France, US. 40 tickets in court, 60 in an annexe, court said could fill “many times over”
Other tweets reveal that, as some were expecting, Tony Benn has joined Assange’s high-profile supporters at the court (Jemima Khan already there).
9.30am: Julian Assange has arrived at Belmarsh magistrates’ court in south-east London for the first day of what is expected to be a two-day extradition hearing. He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion, made by two women over 10 days in August. He denies the charges.
His defence team will publish its full argument at 10am. A skeleton version was published last month and you can read a summary here. His defence lawyers contend that Assange cannot be extradited without being charged; he has been the victim of some abuses of process; and there is a risk that if he is extradited to Sweden, the US will then seek his extradition at some point over the embassy cables leak.
The Swedish prosecutor has not yet made available its arguments.
We’ll be bringing live updates from the court and from our reporter there, Esther Addley.