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article imageOp-Ed: Sex details leaked by media- Sweden vs Assange pitiful law so far

By Paul Wallis     Dec 23, 2010 in Crime
Sweden's reputation as a socially advanced nation is looking shakier by the minute. In what can only be described as a primitive breach of basic justice, the details of allegations against Assange are being broadcast around the world.
Mainstream media, famous for its obsession with genitalia if nothing else, has also contributed a lot, publishing intimate details of the various allegations against Assange. It is now actually being questioned whether or not Assange can get a fair trial in Sweden, but it's also a matter of opinion whether he could get a fair trial anywhere on Earth.
Claes Borgstrom , the gender equality spokesman for the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, was one of the driving forces behind the revival of prosecution charges under the 2005 Sex Crime Act under which Assange has been re-charged. Since then what appears to be a comprehensive process of manipulation of information has been conducted to present a case to the public, which is apparently designed to portray the case for the prosecution.
This is unacceptable. Whether you like or loathe Assange, trial by media is an obscenity. Witch hunting by people in the legal profession, particularly politically accredited "celebrity lawyers" who specialize in high profile cases which just happen to provide them with a lot of publicity, also hardly qualifies as best legal or judicial practice.
This quote from The Sydney Morning Herald is revealing:
"Crucially, the 2005 law had gone beyond simple notion of consent and elaborated the idea of ''violation of sexual integrity'' and non-financial ''sexual exploitation'' - that is, psychological or situational manipulation. It thus became possible to charge someone with a sex crime even if consent was present throughout, a feature of at least two, and possibly all four, of the accusations against Assange."
To put it another way, under this law a crime can be deemed to have occurred by a third party interpreting the law. Borgstrom’s intervention has seen two extra charges added to the original two which were initially dismissed.
Even more bizarrely, and reflecting no credit on Sweden whatsoever, both judge and something called "lay examiners" are appointed in accordance with political representation in the Swedish Parliament. If nothing else, it does clarify the obvious political involvement in this case, but this really does call into question any possibility of judicial objectivity.
One of these complainants has actually refused to sign off on the accusation. Statements made by one of the alleged victims indicating an association with Assange which continued after the supposed offences were deleted from a Twitter account. In most democracies, broadcasting of case information prior to trial would be deemed entirely inappropriate and prejudicial to any possibility of proper judicial practice. The apparent manipulation of documentation uncovered by Swedish bloggers also calls into question the propriety of Swedish legal procedures.
Assange may be becoming an unavoidable eyesore in the world's media, but he's entitled to due process. Sweden has done itself and its reputation as a socially enlightened nation no favours with this pathetic display of politically influenced "law" in which even the alleged complainants apparently have no rights to determine whether or not they make a claim against a person for an offence.
The only possible positive result of this situation is that extradition laws with Sweden may have to be reviewed around the world to ensure that there is no ambiguity regarding the terms of extradition. Assange is an Australian citizen, and under Australian law, these charges wouldn't even be possible. Extradition is usually based on compatible standards of law, and the Swedish laws in this case simply do not measure up to those requirements.
Meanwhile, mainstream media has been rattling along with descriptions of sex acts which looked far more like an attempt to get readership than anything which qualifies as news. Apparently legal ignorance and contempt for basic judicial processes isn't confined entirely to politicians. The UK Guardian published a report detailing the alleged events which gave rise to the charges, bordering on pulp novel levels of description.
Exactly where the Guardian got this information is also highly relevant. Such a high level of detail could only possibly have come for information related to the charges, and/or from selective dissemination of information before the court prejudicial to the case. In most countries, an inquiry would have to be held into dissemination of information under the court's jurisdiction. Presumably not in Sweden, where apparently anything goes where anybody says it should go, and courts evidently exist simply to provide a repository of materials for publicity.
The Guardian, which was once considered a left-wing newspaper is apparently attempting to join the tabloid ranks in any way possible, and included a quite gratuitous series of descriptions of alleged sexual encounters, all of which would be considered prejudicial to any court case in the UK. (Ironically, the Guardian's publication of this information could even prejudice the extradition hearing.)
Let's get this straight – Broadcasting and dissemination of evidence related to a court case is by definition prejudicial to that court case. The world’s media should know better, even if Swedish political hacks and grandstanding lawyers obviously don't. The mere fact of having information doesn't mean that you should necessarily publish it. It's starting to seem like Assange is simply a PR vehicle for some squalid round of Swedish political point scoring.
If Sweden wants to look ridiculous in the eyes of the world it’s doing a pretty good job of it. What should have been a simple, straightforward fair trial is now looking like a trial of Sweden's ability to conduct basic court procedures.
This circus is making a mockery of basic international law, and it would be a very good idea if any international lawyers took a very close look at the way this prosecution is being mismanaged. It may be possible for Mr. Assange to create some very useful case law in a counter-suit based on the apparently endless infringements of his fundamental legal rights to make sure this travesty of a situation never occurs again.
Afterthought:
It's unlikely that visitors to Sweden could possibly be aware of these laws, which don't exist elsewhere. Under the circumstances, it might be an idea if the Swedish government, police, and courts (which apparently have no say in Swedish legal proceedings) formed a working party with Mr. Borgstrom, to ensure they can keep track of which Swedish law he feels like enforcing at any given moment. Swedish embassies could do daily updates.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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