Most of the Stockholm hearing into the Assange case yesterday was held in secret. It is plain from comments on my blog that many people have not grasped this point: if Assange goes to trial in Sweden it will be mostly held IN SECRET. There will be no jury. There will be a judge and two assessors. The assessors are nominated one each by Sweden’s main political parties.
It will not be like the Oscar Pistorius trial, where justice is open and society can form a fair view of the strength of the evidence against the member of society who has been accused. It will be a secret proceeding in which you will hear little more than the verdict. You will never know what the evidence was. All this is to “protect” the false accusers from the public obloquy they so richly deserve.
I have yet to hear a single one of those jumping on the “Assange should face a fair trial” bandwagon address the point that it will be a secret trial, stitched up in advance by Sweden’s political parties who are, to say the very least, CIA-friendly.
I am not therefore in the least surprised by yesterday’s Swedish court verdict, which Assange’s lawyers will appeal, probably pointlessly. The fix is well and truly in.
For me, the most important point at yesterday’s trial was about disclosure. The defence was applying to see the hundreds of texts from and between Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen in the possession of the prosecution, including texts they sent when at the police station making their complaint.
Now in every other legal system I know, those would have to be shown to the defence. Weirdly, in this case they were shown briefly to defence lawyers, but they were not allowed to have copies or write anything down. What on earth can be the purpose of that? Can anybody explain to me any principle of law that might explain why defence lawyers should be allowed very quickly to read them but not have copies or ever see them again?
In the UK, the US, France, Spain, South Africa, Ghana and Russia those texts would have to be available to the defence. Anyone with knowledge of other jurisdictions would be welcome to contribute. The EU has made plain that the ability of Swedish prosecutors to hide evidence tending to innocence is contrary to the human rights of citizens. Accordingly, Sweden has been obliged to amend its law for the first time, to bring it a step towards civilised practice and institute disclosure. This has just happened, and this appeal by Assange was viewed as an important test case for the new duty of disclosure.
The Prosecutors however said that the new Swedish legislation makes plain that they do not have to disclose the case file to the defence. That appears to make some sense, in that the prosecution has to be free to set out its case in court. But it cannot possibly mean that the prosecution can make the EU obligation a dead letter, simply by hiding any evidence that tends to innocence inside the “case file”. That would negate the entire purpose of the new law, and Sweden plainly is still not meeting its international human rights obligation. The hiding of these texts should be a severe concern to anybody whose concern is genuinely for justice.
Finally we have the strange question of the refusal of the prosecutors to advance the case by taking up the offer to conduct initial interviews with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. It is perfectly known procedure for investigative authorities to
travel to conduct interviews in other countries. It happens pretty frequently.
The question here is, what do they have to lose? If they travel to interview Assange in London, and they believe the interview clears up the questions outstanding, that may resolve the case. If they feel it does not clear up the case, then they are still a bit further advanced than they were before, having conducted the interview, and the difficulty of Assange’s physical location will have been no better of worse than today. For the cost of a short haul air ticket, it is truly worth a try.
The prosecutors’ argument against interviewing Assange smacks of desperation. They could not compel Assange to take a DNA swab in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Well, have they asked him if he is willing to provide a sample? Knowing Julian he will happily agree. (You would, incidentally, have to be extraordinary naïve to believe that the security services have not had Assange’s DNA on file for years.)
But what is the DNA sample for. There is no question of identity in this case. Nobody has ever argued that the man who Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen eagerly got into their beds was Julian Assange. The argument concerns the wearing of condoms whilst there. Anna Ardin produced a torn condom, not at her first police interview but several days later, and by then weeks after it had allegedly been used by Assange. She had told police at interview that she “might” be able to find it. One does have to wonder about her sanitary habits that she was able to find an allegedly used condom weeks after the event. Strangely, the torn condom she eventually brought in had nobody’s DNA on it but her own.
Secret courts, no jury, no disclosure of evidence tending to innocence, refusal to interview Assange in London. To believe that this is a genuine attempt to pursue a crime, you need to have had every critical faculty removed.
The trolls will be out big time on comments now. I am more than happy for contrary opinions to be addressed, provided the commenter actually includes a response to the specific points which I make above. Otherwise they will be simply deleted.