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Mark Stephens on Hurtig Ny Riddle & Sweden

An interview with InfoTorg Juridik.

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The Swedish jurist website InfoTorg Juridik interviewed Mark Stephens about Howard Riddle's attack on Björn Hurtig.

In his decision to allow the extradition of Julian Assange, Howard Riddle criticised Assange's Swedish solicitor Björn Hurtig. But Assange's British solicitor Mark Stephens finds the criticism unfair.

'We knew from the outset the Swedish government would appeal if we'd won. They'd already indicated that. And we too indicated we'd appeal. It was helpful to finally get a decision either way.'

But Howard Riddle went way over the top in announcing his decision, calling Hurtig 'an unreliable witness that deliberately tried to mislead the court'. This because Hurtig failed to see a number of SMS messages in his cellphone between himself and Marianne Ny.

'I think Hurtig made a simple mistake', said Stephens. 'He discovered the mistake the evening before the court hearing and made clear he was correcting his testimony in the hearing, and he didn't understand the effect of the mistake until the other side made their case. This led to a misunderstanding but also an unfortunate turn of events in the hearings. Once these SMS messages are accounted for, it becomes clear Julian Assange was eager to meet with Marianne Ny before he left Sweden and that he'd offered to return in October to meet with her. But she took the intractable position if he couldn't come precisely the day she wanted then he wasn't being cooperative.'

Stephens is openly critical of Marianne Ny.

'Applying for a European Arrest Warrant was an inappropriate and unfortunate decision on her part. But it seems to be part of her character: when people don't do exactly as she dictates, even when they're in a foreign country, she pulls out all the stops. The proportional thing would have been to use Mutual Legal Assistance or accept Julian Assange's offer to meet.'

'I think Marianne Ny has deliberately escalated matters in a way that has nothing to do with the case itself. If her chief concern was helping the claimants, she'd have traveled to London and met with Julian. But she hasn't done that. No, she chooses not to. And no one's been able to give me a reasonable explanation why she doesn't. She's stubborn and intractable. She wants to turn this case into a show trial - and this isn't what justice is about.'

'And as judge Riddle noted on 24 February, Sweden has a system of holding secret trials. The suspect is questioned behind closed doors by a jurist and three laymen chosen by Sweden's political parties. Extraditing someone to such a country is wrong. It shouldn't ever be done. There is a fundamental defect in the Swedish judicial system - and the judge here thinks this can be ameliorated by letting the European Court take on the case but I think the only way is to simply not let Julian Assange be sent to Sweden.'

In what way does the Swedish judicial system violate basic human rights?

'They have a system of secret trials. We have another belief - that an accused shall be heard by the public. To quote Jeremy Bentham: 'publicity is the very soil of justice - it keeps the judge, while trying, under trial'.

'This isn't an attack on Sweden - there are things wrong with judicial systems in most countries. We jurists want conditions to improve. Sweden has identifiable flaws, so does England. I've won cases against the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, and my own country Great Britain. No judicial system is perfect. But they should be. What we've done is single out the shortcomings in the Swedish justice system - and they can be corrected, and in such case you can extradite someone to Sweden, but until that time comes, no one should be extradited there.'

So this has nothing to do specifically with the Assange case?

'It has an effect on the Assange case, but that's a bigger cause of concern. I expect next time the UN will take a look at the Swedish judicial system they'll find cause to criticise it. The organs of the UN regularly control all countries - Great Britain got criticised for their laws about libel and for how terrorists are treated. But in my country one is more outspoken in criticising the system than what people in Sweden are.'

Do you think Swedes are a bit priggish in this regard?

'Swedes have reason to be proud of their judicial system. I have a lot of respect for many Swedish solicitors and jurists I've worked with and for the Swedish judicial system in general, but that doesn't mean I'm blinded by my admiration. I specialise in cases of human rights and I travel to many countries to study their judicial systems and to make sure they follow international requirements for safeguarding human rights.'

Do you have anything to comment on Swedish sex crime legislation?

'No, I think sex crimes are revolting and wrong. But I can point out that Sweden remains unique in Europe in the way the country defines and punishes the lesser forms of rape and sexual molestation.'

Does Julian Assange run a greater risk of extradition (or rendition) to the US if he's in Sweden?

'Yes. People suffer from the erroneous delusion that it's easier to get people out of Great Britain but it's simply not true. Look at the case of Gary McKinnon, the scotsman who hacked into the Pentagon computer network. They've been trying for ten years to get him extradited to the US - but to no avail. This would have never happened in Sweden.'

If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade. If I could tell the British courts, I suspect it would make extradition a moot point.
 - Björn Hurtig

I can tell you that the Swedish prosecution still hasn't provided copies of those SMS texts that have been referred to. Those texts are some of the most powerful exculpatory evidence. In Australia prosecutors have a very grave duty to disclose such evidence to courts when seeking the grave exercise of a court's power against an individual. Yet in Sweden in this case, in the first hearings to obtain an arrest warrant, those texts were not submitted to the Swedish court, which is highly improper.
 - James Catlin

Further Reading
InfoTorg Juridik: Julian Assanges engelske advokat försvarar sin svenske kollega

WikiLeaks: Support WikiLeaks
Rixstep: Assange/WikiLeaks RSS Feed
Radsoft: Assange/WikiLeaks RSS Feed

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