15 Mar 2012 – By Matthew Da Silva
Concerns about the fairness of the Assange trial in Sweden are mounting. Australian MPs were briefed on the case last year but critical information has not been widely reported, writes Matthew da Silva
Australian MPs were briefed in March 2011 on Julian Assange’s legal case at Parliament House in Canberra, where they learned of compromising links between one of the complainants, the prosecution attorney, and a Swedish policewoman intimately involved in the case.
The briefing also canvassed serious shortcomings in the procedures followed by the Swedish policewoman that could undermine attempts to charge Assange, and reckless disregard for Assange’s rights by officials who fed information to Sweden’s media.
The briefing was organised by Liberal National Party MP Andrew Laming, the Member for Bowman in Queensland. Also in attendance at the briefing were Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, Labor Senator Doug Cameron, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and parliamentary staff members.
During the briefing the MPs heard from Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer at legal firm Finers Stephens Innocent who was at the time part of the legal team representing Assange in the extradition proceedings requested by Sweden.
Robinson told the MPs that Ms AA, one of the defendants, Claes Borgstrom, who is representing the complainants, as well as the interviewing policewoman for both the women who allege rape, are all members of Sweden’s Social Democrats party.
Borgstrom took the case when he successfully appealed against the decision to drop the charges made on 21 August 2010 — the day after the original accusation — by the chief prosecutor of Stockholm, Eva Finne.
Robinson told the MPs that Borgstrom, a Social Democrat politician, had been campaigning in the election to be held in September 2010 and that his political platform and reputation is closely associated with sexual offence law reform. One of the recently released Stratfor emails, dubbed The Global Intelligence Files, asserts that the political ambition of the prosecutor was motivating the case.
“[A] close family friend in Sweden who knows the girl that is pressing charges tells me that there is absolutely nothing behind it other than prosecutors that are looking to make a name for themselves,” wrote Stratfor analyst Chris Farnham on 5 December 2010 in an email.
The MPs were told that the policewoman who interviewed both complainants had initially reported the alleged rape to the prosecutor. Robinson stated that both women were interviewed only briefly over the telephone and that their interrogation exists in summary form only, with no video or tape recording having been made. This is a serious procedural breach, Robinson told the MPs, because witnesses in Swedish sexual offence cases must be recorded in full, with the initial interview viewed as important evidence at trial.
“It is notable that all of the prosecution witnesses’ interviews are recorded in summary format so it is impossible to know what the police asked and what their precise answers were in response,” Robinson told the MPs. “Only the interviews with Mr Assange and his friendly witnesses were recorded in full. These irregularities in police procedure will cause evidential problems in any trial, particularly if the reliability of the complainants’ testimony is in question.”
The policewoman is, in addition, a friend of the first complainant, Ms AA, and had also run for election for the Social Democrats.
Marianne Ny, now the prosecutor for the Assange case, is also a Social Democrat member. Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a Swedish lawyer and retired judge, told a British Supreme Court hearing in early February 2011 that Ny and Borgstrom have previously worked together to amend Swedish rape laws.
“It is a fact that people like Marianne Ny and Claes Borgstrom have worked in cooperation on different issues in efforts to produce our new, more stringent sexual offence laws,” said Sundberg-Weitman at the hearing.
“It is a fact that Marianne Ny was one of the experts for the recent law reform committee which published a report in 2010 recommending even more harsh sexual offence legislation. It is a fact that Marianne Ny approved the contents of that report which concluded that, unlike the law of England and Wales, Swedish rape law is not based upon lack of consent and which specifically rejects any recommendation that Swedish law be amended to adopt the English law approach where rape is based on consent.”
Another presenter at the March 2011 meeting, Tony Kevin, told the MPs about other links of concern to the defence team. Kevin is a retired diplomat and an honorary visiting fellow at the ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies.
The legal firm representing the two complainants is a partnership, Kevin told the MPs. Borgstrom’s partner is Thomas Bodstrom, a crime thriller author who was Sweden’s Minister for Justice between 2000 and 2006.
As Minister, Bodstrom had a major policy role in the decision by his government in 2001 to secretly hand over to the CIA two asylum-seekers in Sweden who were suspected by the CIA of being terrorists, Kevin told the MPs.
“The CIA flew the men from Sweden to Egypt where they were tortured. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture. Bodstrom’s partner on the firm, [Claes] Borgstrom, represents the two women accusers. Borgstrom is the primary advocate in the complaint initiated by this legal firm against Assange. He stresses that only he, not his partner Bodstrom, represents the women.”
And Peter Kemp, a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW, told the March 2011 meeting that, “Sweden has a record of allowing rendition of people to Egypt at the instigation of US authorities which does not bode well if an extradition application [for Assange] was made by the USA.”
WikiLeaks’ Global Intelligence Files has since disclosed, in an email dated 26 January 2011, that a sealed indictment for Assange has been issued by a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. His defence team await the issuance of an extradition order.
Robinson asked the MPs to seek guarantees from both the Swedish and British governments that Julian will not be extradited to the United States to face prosecution in relation to WikiLeaks publications.
“Any such prosecution would violate the right to free speech and the protections of the First Amendment,” said Robinson.