Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website, is the victim of a "malicious" attempt to extradite him by a Swedish prosecutor who is "biased against men", a court was told yesterday.
Marianne Ny, the public prosecutor who issued an international arrest warrant for Mr Assange on sexual assault allegations last year, is motivated by "sexual politics", one of her own colleagues has claimed.
Mr Assange (39), who denies any wrongdoing, is fighting the attempt to extradite him to Sweden, where lawyers have confirmed for the first time they intend to prosecute him for "minor rape", which carries a maximum sentence of four years.
The Australian argues that he will not receive a fair trial in Sweden, where he is accused of assaulting two women during a visit last year.
On the first day of a two-day extradition hearing at Belmarsh magistrates' court in London, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, a former Swedish Appeal Court judge giving evidence on behalf of Mr Assange, said: "Miss Ny has a rather biased view against men in the treatment of sexual offence cases.
"They seem to take it for granted that everyone under prosecution is guilty.
"I honestly can't understand her attitude. It looks malicious. I think maybe she wants to make him suffer."
The former judge, who is now an associate professor of Law at Stockholm University, added that Miss Ny was "involved in sexual politics" which was "very much" a political issue in Sweden.
Mr Assange's barrister, Geoffrey Robertson, also argued that he will be denied a fair trial in Sweden because rape cases are heard "in secret" behind closed doors.
Celebrity supporters including Jemima Khan, Tony Benn and Bianca Jagger, who believe Mr Assange is being pursued for political reasons following the publication of thousands of leaked US Embassy cables by WikiLeaks, were among those in the public gallery yesterday.
The hearing continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)