The London Independent reported early Friday that a technical error in an arrest warrant had delayed the arrest of Julian Assange, but that he is "expected to be arrested in the coming days after Swedish prosecutors filed a new warrant with British authorities." -- When the arrest is made, Mr. Assange will be taken before an extradition hearing at Westminster magistrates' court. If he refuses to be extradited, a judge will preside over an extradition hearing and will rule whether he should be sent to Sweden or discharged." -- Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens said he would "challenge any arrest in British courts. 'The process in this case has been so utterly irregular that the chances of a valid arrest warrant being submitted to me are very small,' he said." -- A day earlier, the website Raw Story reported that an Australian lawyer briefly employed by Assange said "that Sweden's justice system is destined to become 'the laughingstock of the world' for investigating rape charges in two cases where women complained that Assange had had sex with them without using a condom." -- James D. Caitlan "also said both of the accusers 'boast[ed] of their respective conquests' after the alleged crimes had been committed. 'The Swedes are making it up as they go along,' he wrote." -- The focus on alleged sex crimes may be due to the fact that, as the New York Times reported late Wednesday, "legal scholars say that [an effort to prosecute Assange for leaking secret U.S. documents] would encounter steep legal and policy difficulties." -- The most recent effort to prosecute recipients of a leak under the Espionage Act "collapsed after a judge ruled that prosecutors had to prove that the lobbyists specifically intended to harm the United States or benefit a foreign country," Charlie Savage said. -- Assange is "motivated by a belief in greater openness." -- In addition, "extradition may be difficult." ...
NET CLOSES ON ASSANGE: ARREST BY BRITISH POLICE EXPECTED IN DAYS
By Mark Hughes and Jerome Taylor
December 3, 2010
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is expected to be arrested in the coming days after Swedish prosecutors filed a new warrant with British authorities.
The Independent revealed yesterday that a procedural error with the European Arrest Warrant had delayed the arrest of the 39-year-old Australian, who is wanted in Sweden over sexual allegations but has been in England since October.
Police in Gothenburg claim they have now submitted a fresh warrant to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. SOCA is expected to instruct Scotland Yard to arrest Mr. Assange and have him appear before an extradition hearing -- although as of last night the Metropolitan Police had yet to receive the warrant.
Police sources have previously said that they received a letter from Mr. Assange's U.K.-based lawyer, Mark Stephens, containing information about how to contact Mr. Assange should they need to.
Details of the new arrest warrant came as a last-ditch attempt to have the allegations against Mr. Assange dropped failed. Sweden's highest court upheld the arrest order and refused to let him appeal against a lower court's ruling.
Last night, Mr. Assange's family spoke of their fears for his safety after increasingly shrill statements from American commentators who have called for his assassination. His mother, Christine Assange, said "the forces that he's challenging are too big."
The arrest warrant filed with SOCA states that he was wanted on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion. But SOCA requested a new warrant. A spokeswoman for the Swedish National Police Board told the BBC that the original one had been refused because it listed only the maximum penalty for the most serious crime alleged, rather than for all of the crimes.
When the arrest is made, Mr. Assange will be taken before an extradition hearing at Westminster magistrates' court. If he refuses to be extradited, a judge will preside over an extradition hearing and will rule whether he should be sent to Sweden or discharged.
Last night, Mr. Stephens said he would challenge any arrest in British courts. "The process in this case has been so utterly irregular that the chances of a valid arrest warrant being submitted to me are very small," he said. Mr. Stephens has accused Swedish prosecutors of launching a witch-hunt against his client, who strongly denies the rape allegations and says he is being smeared because of the exposés published by his website.
He has maintained that Swedish prosecutors have yet to provide any evidence against Mr. Assange and have ignored his requests to meet with them. He also expressed concerns at the way the U.K. and Swedish authorities were handling the case.
"I feel like I am sitting in the middle of a surreal Swedish fairytale," he said. "The trolls keep threatening to come on and keep making noises off stage. But at the moment, no appearance from them."
In an interview with an Australian newspaper, Mr. Assange's mother defended her son and lambasted hawks in the U.S. who have called for his death.
Ms. Assange, who runs a puppet theatre in Noosa, a Queensland beach resort, defended her son's decision to publish thousands of classified U.S. documents on the website. "He sees what he's doing as doing a good thing in the world -- fighting baddies, if you like," she told Queensland's Courier-Mail.
Ms. Assange -- who does not even own a computer -- described her son as a hero of the internet. But she added that she feared he had "gotten too smart for himself," saying: "I'm concerned it's gotten too big and the forces that he's challenging are too big." She did not want him "hunted down and jailed."
LAWYER: SWEDEN INVESTIGATING ASSANGE FOR SEX WITHOUT CONDOM
By Daniel Tencer
December 2, 2010
A lawyer who recently represented Julian Assange says the Swedish sex assault investigation into the WikiLeaks founder is based on claims he didn't use condoms during sex with two Swedish women.
James D. Catlin, a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia, says in an article published Thursday that Sweden's justice system is destined to become "the laughingstock of the world" for investigating rape charges in two cases where women complained that Assange had had sex with them without using a condom.
Catlin, who confirmed to Raw Story that Assange retained his services for a "limited duration" in October but did not provide details, also said both of the accusers "boast[ed] of their respective conquests" after the alleged crimes had been committed. "The Swedes are making it up as they go along," he wrote.
Catlin's claims are likely to add fuel to speculation that Sweden's investigation of Assange is politically motivated.
He writes: "Apparently having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for rape. That is the basis for a reinstitution of rape charges against WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange that is destined to make Sweden and its justice system the laughing stock of the world and dramatically damage its reputation as a model of modernity.
"Sweden’s Public Prosecutor’s Office was embarrassed in August this year when it leaked to the media that it was seeking to arrest Assange for rape, then on the same day withdrew the arrest warrant because in its own words there was 'no evidence.' The damage to Assange’s reputation is incalculable. More than three quarters of internet references to his name refer to rape. Now, three months on and three prosecutors later, the Swedes seem to be clear on their basis to proceed. Consensual sex that started out with a condom ended up without one, ergo, the sex was not consensual."
Catlin's article appeared Thursday in the Australian online current affairs site Crikey.
He argued that Sweden has been pushed into a corner by the investigation and has found itself moving forward with a flimsy case because, in this day and age of social networking news and instant communication, prosecutors can't add new evidence without publicly discrediting themselves.
Catlin also said that the two alleged victims -- whom he names in the article -- boasted of their sexual "conquests" online after the incidents took place. "They sought advice together, having collaborated and irrevocably tainted each other’s evidence beforehand. Their SMS texts to each other show a plan to contact the Swedish newspaper Expressen beforehand in order to maximize the damage to Assange. They belong to the same political group and attended a public lecture given by Assange and organized by them."
According to an August report in the Daily Mail, both of the accusers' complaints stem from lack of condom use. In the case of "Woman A," as the Daily Mail identifies her, a condom broke during intercourse. In the case of "Woman B," Assange reportedly did not use a condom during a second round of intercourse.
Catlin states that neither of the women's police statements "complain of rape."
"But then neither [of the accusers] complained to the police but rather 'sought advice,' a technique in Sweden enabling citizens to avoid just punishment for making false complaints," Catlin alleges.
Catlin promises that, as the investigation goes on, it will reveal "damning evidence" about "what passes for legal process in Sweden." Even though the investigation has been ongoing since August, he says Assange's lawyers didn't receive any documents from prosecutors until November 18, and then the documents were only in Swedish, "contrary to European Law."
When the investigation was first announced in August, Assange said the timing -- which seemed to coincide with the release of a cache of Afghanistan-related documents -- was "deeply disturbing." He has speculated that the Pentagon may have been behind the investigation.
U.S. WEIGHS PROSECUTION OF WIKILEAKS FOUNDER, BUT LEGAL SCHOLARS WARN OF STEEP HURDLES
By Charlie Savage
New York Times
December 1, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Calls to prosecute the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, mounted this week as his organization began releasing documents from a cache of 250,000 State Department cables -- its third major disclosure of United States government secrets this year.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has confirmed that the Justice Department is examining whether Mr. Assange could be charged with a crime, but legal scholars say that such an effort would encounter steep legal and policy difficulties.
“There is a haze of uncertainty over all of this,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, an American University law professor who has written about the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that prohibits the unauthorized retention or transmission of defense-related documents.
“The government has never brought an Espionage Act prosecution that would look remotely like this one,” he said. “I suspect that has a lot to do with why nothing has happened yet.”
The Obama administration has been scrambling to figure out how to respond to the WikiLeaks disclosures. On Wednesday, the White House national security team appointed an official, Russell Travers, to coordinate “technological and/or policy changes to limit the likelihood of such a leak recurring.”
Legal scholars say the legal landscape for the protection of government information has been exposed as unprepared for the mass dissemination of leaked electronic documents on the Internet.
A relic of World War I, the Espionage Act was written before a series of Supreme Court rulings expanded the First Amendment’s protection of speech and press freedoms. The court has not reviewed the law’s constitutionality in light of those decisions.
Moreover, in a reflection of strong constitutional protections for the freedoms of speech and the press, the United States has usually prosecuted only government officials responsible for leaking documents, not outsiders who received information and passed it on.
The one effort to prosecute recipients of a leak under the Espionage Act ended in embarrassment for the Justice Department. In 2005, it indicted two lobbyists for a pro-Israel group who had been accused of receiving leaked information from a Pentagon official and conveying it to others. The case collapsed after a judge ruled that prosecutors had to prove that the lobbyists specifically intended to harm the United States or benefit a foreign country.
That ruling, specialists say, suggests that prosecutors would have to prove that Mr. Assange intended to harm the United States. That could be difficult. While he has made many statements critical of United States foreign policy, he has also portrayed himself as motivated by a belief in greater openness.
Prosecuting Mr. Assange could also open the door to prosecuting traditional media organizations, including The New York Times, which was provided advance access to the materials.
Although legal scholars say the law does not draw a legal distinction between the traditional news media and anyone else, Justice Departments under both political parties have been reluctant to prosecute members of the press.
Jack M. Balkin, a Yale professor of constitutional law, noted that Mr. Assange had portrayed himself as a journalist, calling himself an editor who received unsolicited information and made decisions about how to publish it.
“If you could show that he specifically conspired with a government person to leak the material, that puts him in a different position than if he is the recipient of an anonymous contribution,” Mr. Balkin said. “If he’s just providing a portal for information that shows up, he’s very much like a journalist.”
There are indications that the Obama administration may be taking steps toward a potential prosecution of Mr. Assange by establishing a record that he was on notice that the law required him to return the documents rather than distribute them.
Two administration lawyers have written letters informing him that publishing the materials would have grave consequences and that “as long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.”
But in an interview with *Time* magazine, Mr. Assange rejected such warnings, questioning the constitutionality of the Espionage Act. He said it was important to remember that the law was “not simply what powerful people would want others to believe it is.” Rather, he said, the law is what the Supreme Court “says it is, and the Supreme Court in the case of the United States has an enviable Constitution on which to base its decisions.”
There are other legal impediments. It is not clear where Mr. Assange is, and extradition may be difficult. An extradition treaty with Britain, for example, gives British judges the authority to reject an extradition request for “political” charges.
Moreover, Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen. Still, Mr. Holder said Monday that he did not believe that Mr. Assange’s citizenship or location was a barrier to prosecution.
“To the extent there are gaps in our laws, we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation,” he said.