Julian Assange’s Lawyer: It Was Missionary Position, Not Assault

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks after his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London February 11, 2011.

REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Warning: The following report contains some graphic content.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange did not attempt to pin down a Swedish woman in bed, as suggested by Swedish prosecutors, but was simply having sex in the missionary position, Assange’s attorney claimed today.

In the final day of extradition hearings at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in  London, Assange’s lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, attempted to portray allegations of sex crimes by two Swedish women as misunderstandings rather than crimes. One woman, which court documents identify as Miss A, alleges that Assange used his body weight to hold her down during intercourse.

“It is quite clear that [Miss A's account] described what is usually termed the missionary position,” Robertson told the court.

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Later, Robertson apparently suggested that the two sexual encounters in question — which began as consensual but which both women say became non consensual — were not criminal. “Sexual encounters have their ebbs and flows. What may be unwanted one minute can with further empathy become desired,” he said.

At the center of the extradition hearings is whether Assange should be tried in Sweden for rape if the crime he is accused of would not be considered rape in the U.K., but would rather be classified as a less serious criminal offense. Prosecutor Clare Montgomery countered this argument today by telling the court “If Sweden says it’s rape, it’s rape,” to which Robertson replied, “If Sweden says that sucking toes without washing them first is rape, then that would make it an extradition offense?”

According to the Swedish branch of Interpol, an arrest warrant for Assange stated that the rape accusation stems from a sexual encounter in which the woman “was asleep and in a helpless state.” There is also a sexual-molestation allegation based on claims from another incident. And prosecutors also want to question Assange in relation to the suspicion that he sexually coerced one of the women by “lying on top of [her], using his weight to prevent her from moving, and forcefully spreading her legs,” and that he sexually molested both women by “having sex without the use of a condom, without the woman’s knowledge.”

There were more tart exchanges between the two lawyers over these accusations. Robertson argued that Assange would not receive a fair trial in Sweden because Swedish officials had created a “toxic atmosphere” by commenting publicly on the case. To which prosecutor  Montgomery referred to Robertson’s grandstanding in front of the press by replying that, “Those who seek to fan the flames of media firestorm can’t complain when they get burnt.”

Robertson had told the court and various journalists that his client faced the prospect of rendition to Guantanamo Bay from Sweden, but such claims were absent in Robertson’s closing argument. This led Montgomery to say that “I take it from the absence of any sound bites about Guantanamo Bay and torture … that there is no prospect in reality in law of extradition to the United States and we may well put that point to bed.”

Assange will now remain on bail in the U.K. until Feb. 24,  when Judge Howard Riddle is expected to rule whether the Wikileaks boss should be extradited. The decision may be appealed. (via The Guardian)

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