11 Feb 2011

Decision day on the extradition of Julian Assange?

The world’s media is back at Belmarsh to discover if the man behind WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, will be sent to Sweden to answer sex allegations. Channel 4 News will be tweeting updates from court.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his extradition hearing. (Reuters)

Legions of reporters and satellite vans returned to Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in south east London this morning to learn the fate of Julian Assange.

The former computer hacker turned WikiLeaks editor is at the centre of sex allegations which first came to light last year as the 39-year-old’s whistleblowing website gained world notoriety for releasing tens of thousands of secret logs recorded by US troops in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. In the autumn there was a further mass leak of diplomatic cables to and from the US.

Mr Assange denies any wrongdoing and claims the attempts to send him back to Sweden – where the alleged sexual offences took place – are “politically motivated” and disproportionate to the claims being made against him. He has not been charged by Swedish authorities.

Channel 4 News special report - Secret war files: Afghanistan to Iraq

The extradition hearing was due to conclude on Tuesday but has been extended to allow more time for evidence and for the closing statements of both UK prosecutor Clare Montgomery QC and Mr Assange’s legal team. It is unclear if the hearings will conclude today or whether the process will need more time.

Lawyer Mark Stephens has called for the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, to attend the hearing in person to answer questions.

On Tuesday he said outside court: “I challenge you, Marianne Ny, come to London, come on Friday, subject yourself to the cross-examination by Geoffrey Robertson QC.”

Text messages

A series of texts may yet prove crucial in the Australian’s fight to remain in the UK. His Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig told the hearing on Tuesday that investigators had collected around 100 messages to and from his two alleged victims that undermine the case against Mr Assange.

Bjorn Hurtig, 45, said the texts reveal the women expected to be paid, intended to get “revenge” and wanted to contact newspapers to “blast” his client’s reputation. But he said that prosecutors in Stockholm have not let him have copies, making it impossible for Assange to receive a fair trial.

Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish authorities, said there was no reason that Assange should not be sent overseas to answer the case against him.
Earlier this week she outlined how prosecutors tried more than 10 times over one week last September to arrange an interview with Assange before he left the country.

Who Knows Who: Julian Assange, hacking on the electronic frontier

Mr Assange is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and faces one charge of raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm last August.
District Judge Howard Riddle, who moved the case from Westminster because of overwhelming media interest, adjourned the over-running case until today for a final session.

Follow @channel4news on Twitter for latest updates from court.