Julian Assange 'faces genuine accusations' of sex assault
Published 13/07/2011 | 15:49
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces genuine accusations of "non-consensual, coerced sex", the High Court in London was told today.
Statements made by two women who have accused Assange of sexual misconduct - one of whom said she was "roughed up" - plainly showed they did not freely consent, said a QC representing Swedish prosecutors.
Lawyers for Assange, 40, are challenging a ruling by District Judge Howard Riddle at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south London that he should be extradited to Sweden to face investigation.
Although not charged, the Australian computer expert is wanted to answer questions on three allegations of sexual assault and one of rape involving the women, referred to as AA and SW, in Stockholm last August.
Assange says the allegations against him are politically motivated, particularly after the WikiLeaks website published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that rocked the US government.
Yesterday his lawyers argued that a European arrest warrant (EAW) was invalid because it contained an inaccurate account of what had occurred in Stockholm, and the women's own statements showed sex had taken place with their consent.
But today, the second day of the High Court hearing in London, Clare Montgomery QC, appearing for the Swedish prosecuting authority, dismissed the Assange claims.
Ms Montgomery said it was "perfectly plain" that the women had made allegations of non-consensual, coerced sex.
That was "clearly the only legitimate inference one can draw from the plaintiff's statements".
Ms Montgomery told Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley the women described circumstances "in which they did not freely consent without coercion" but agreed to sex because of physical force, or consented "already having been trapped into a position where they had no choice, and they submitted to Mr Assange's attentions".
They had "let him continue", said Ms Montgomery.
"This is non-consensual. It is coerced, and the words used - 'I let him' - means non-consent," said the QC.
She referred to a statement made by AA in which she said: "I didn't make a free choice. He had already roughed me up by tearing off my clothes and breaking my necklace."
Ms Montgomery argued that the first woman (AA) had been a victim of "coercive violent sex".
"They (the statements) are clearly describing coercive, violent sex of the sort where the court would be entitled to infer there was no consent and Mr Assange didn't believe there was any," she said.
"The (first) charge relates to actions which nobody suggested she was positively consenting."
Ms Montgomery said the woman had later made her feelings "crystal clear" to a friend, saying "what had happened had gone beyond the limit of what she consented to".
She said the first woman also complained that Assange had "broken a condom" and added: "The complaint is unprotected sexually intercourse where consent had only been given to protected intercourse."
On one night the first woman had agreed to share a single bed with Assange but not to be sexually "touched", Ms Montgomery added.
Prosecutors alleged that the woman's "sexual integrity" had been "violated", judges were told.
Ms Montgomery said evidence was "absolutely clear" in relation to the fourth charge - an allegation that Assange raped a second woman, referred to in court as "SW".
"The evidence is absolutely clear that this complainant may be legitimately described as given evidence that she had been penetrated whilst asleep," said Ms Montgomery.
"Furthermore being penetrated in a way which is absolutely clear ... she had not consented to, namely unprotected. It is doubly clear there is no consent."
Ms Montgomery said the fact that the woman may later have agreed to let Assange continue did not change the "initial" act.
"She may later have acquiesced," added Ms Montgomery. "That didn't make the initial penetration anything other than an act of rape."
Ms Montgomery said SW had later told a friend that Assange "had unprotected sex with her when she slept".
SW had also told the friend Assange "wanted to impregnate women" and "preferred virgins because he would be the first to impregnate them".
She told the friend she had been "shocked and paralysed" and had "not really understood at first what was happening", said Ms Montgomery.
SW's boyfriend had told police that "this is a woman who never had unprotected sex", judges heard.
Two judges have been told that Assange had sex with two women in August 2010 after visiting Sweden at the invitation of a political group to give a lecture.
Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley have heard that the women subsequently had concerns "about diseases" and had gone to police to "seek advice".
But police treated the women's visit as the "filing of formal reports" and a prosecutor ordered Assange's arrest.
Assange had been charged with: "unlawful coercion" - prosecutors said he used "violence" and restricted the first woman's "freedom of movement", two counts of "sexual molestation" - prosecutors said he acted in a "manner designed to violate (the first woman's) sexual integrity" and "minor rape" - prosecutors said he "consummated sexual intercourse (with the second woman) by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state".
But Assange's lawyers argued on Tuesday, when the appeal began, that charges had not been accurately summarised and arrest warrants were therefore "invalid".
They said "violence" was Assange holding the first woman "during consensual foreplay" and the second woman had taken part in "consensual" intercourse while "half asleep".
They said the women had consented and Assange would not have been charged with a sexual offence under English law.
Lawyers say a European arrest warrant (EAW) on which Assange is being held is flawed because it fails to provide "a fair, accurate and proper" description of the alleged sexual misconduct.
They also say Swedish prosecutors unfairly want to extradite Assange for "the purpose of investigation", not for prosecution.
The first woman, who worked for the political group, said Assange could stay in her apartment in Stockholm, lawyers told the court.
She had "thrown a crayfish party" in Assange's honour and had sent an internet tweet saying "...with the world's coolest people, it's amazing..."
Lawyers said the second woman became captivated with Assange when she saw a television interview with him. She had found out where he was speaking then attended the talk.
She had "helped" by buying a computer cable for Assange, attended an "intimate lunch" with him and Assange had flirted with her.
The first woman told police that Assange's physical advances were "initially welcomed" but "then it felt awkward" since he was "rough and impatient", Assange's lawyers told judges.
She described one encounter by saying that Assange "continued to have sex" and "she just wanted to get it over". Talking about another encounter, she described Assange's behaviour as "very strange".
The woman told police that "Assange tried to make sexual advances towards her every day after that evening when they had sex"'. She had rejected Assange, which he "had accepted".
"Her words may indicate she was not particularly enjoying what was going on, but they certainly do not go anywhere near what we would regard in this country as lack of consent," said Ben Emmerson QC, for Assange.
"What (Swedish prosecutors) must prove beyond reasonable doubt is that if these circumstances as alleged had happened in London, would they have constituted offences?".
He added: "(There are) very serious questions on dual criminality in (three charges).
"(There are) very serious questions on whether what happened in charge four could have been recognisable as a charge in this (country)."
Assange, who is on bail and living near Diss, Norfolk, has said nothing to journalists outside court.
Supporters have gathered at the entrance as Assange arrives and leaves.
One banner put up by a supporter today puzzled onlookers. It read "Julian Assange dacks the rich and powerful." Australian journalists said the verb "dack" was Australian slang and meant to "pull someone's trousers down".