Julian Assange's lawyer has slammed Swedish authorities' request for a warrant to arrest the WikiLeaks founder, denying that his client has refused to cooperate with investigations and claiming that prosecutors have never put charges in writing.
Björn Hurtig, Assange's Swedish lawyer, makes the extraordinary claims in a letter to his English-speaking co-counsel, made public by WikiLeaks in a link tweeted on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Hurtig claims Director of Public Prosecutions, Marianne Ny, who today made a formal request for a court order authorising Assange's arrest, has refused repeated requests to hand over the evidence against Assange. He claims to have made a formal request for the documents in writing on 14th September, which has so far gone unanswered - in breach, he says, of Swedish law.
He also claims that Sweden is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, having failed to adequately inform Assange of the accusations against him in his native language.
He also accuses Ny of refusing several offers by Assange to meet to discuss the charges - in stark contradiction to claims made earlier today by Swedish authorities that they were seeking an arrest warrant due to the Australian journalist and activist's failure to cooperate with their enquiries.
Hurtig claims today's attempt to obtain an arrest warrant is illegal, because Assange has not attempted to evade justice.
He claims Ny gave her consent to his client leaving the country on business during a phone call in September, in response to a formal request from Hurtig.
Since then, says Hurtig, Assange has offered to return to Sweden to talk to prosecutors in a private hearing, but these offers too have been refused.
UPDATE, 16:17 GMT 18/11/10:
This afternoon, Julian Assange's counsel Mark Stephens released the following statement:
On the morning of 21 August 2010, my client, Julian Assange, read in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen that there was a warrant out for his arrest relating to allegations of "rape" involving two Swedish women.
However, even the substance of the allegations, as revealed to the press through unauthorized disclosures do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported "the basis for the rape charge" purely seems to constitute a post-facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event. Both women have declared that they had consensual sexual relations with our client and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other's relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him.
The warrant for his arrest was rightly withdrawn within 24 hours by Chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who found that there was no "reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Yet his name had already been deliberately and unlawfully disclosed to the press by Swedish authorities. The "rape" story was carried around the world and has caused Mr. Assange and his organization irreparable harm.
Eva Finne's decision to drop the "rape" investigation was reversed after the intervention of a political figure, Claes Borgstrom, who is now acting for the women. The case was given to a specific prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
The only way the accused and his lawyers have been able to discover any substantive information regarding the investigation against him has been through the media Over the last three months, despite numerous demands, neither Mr. Assange, nor his legal counsel has received a single word in writing from the Swedish authorities relating to the allegations; a clear contravention to Article 6 of the European Convention, which states that every accused must "be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him". The actions by the Swedish authorities constitute a blatant and deliberate disregard for his rights under the Convention.
We are now concerned that prosecutor Marianne Ny intends to apply for an arrest warrant in an effort to have Mr. Assange forcibly taken to Sweden for preliminary questioning. Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden, and then in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit. All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden at his own expense to be subjected to another media circus that she will orchestrate. Pursuing a warrant in this circumstance is entirely unnecessary and disproportionate. This action is in contravention both of European Conventions and makes a mockery of arrangements between Sweden and the United Kingdom designed to deal with just such situations. This behavior is not a prosecution, but a persecution. Before leaving Sweden Mr. Assange asked to be interviewed by the prosecution on several occasions in relation to the allegations, staying over a month in Stockholm, at considerable expense and despite many engagements elsewhere, in order to clear his name. Eventually the prosecution told his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig that he was free to leave the country, without interview, which he did.
Our client has always maintained his innocence. The allegations against him are false and without basis. As a result of these false allegations and bizarre legal interpretations our client now has his name and reputation besmirched. Thousands of news articles and 3.6million web pages now contain his name and the word "rape". Indeed, three out of four webpages that mention Mr. Assange's name also now mention the word "rape"-a direct result of incompetent and malicious behavior by Swedish government prosecutors. My client is now in the extraordinary position that, despite his innocence, and despite never having been charged, and despite never receiving a single piece of paper about the allegations against him, one in ten Internet references to the word "rape" also include his name. Every day that this flawed investigation continues the damages to his reputation are compounded.