Decision in Julian Assange''s extradition case on Feb 24

H S Rao

London, Feb 11 (PTI) A decision on the extradition ofJulian Assange, WikiLeaks'' founder, from the UK to Sweden willbe announced by a court here on February 24.

Belmarsh Magistrate''s Court announced the date at theend of the three-day long hearing today.

During the hearing, Assange''s lawyer GeoffreyRobertson QC said criticism of the WikiLeaks founder bySwedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfieldt could damage hisclient''s chance of a fair trial.

Reinfeldt''s remarks had shown "complete contempt forthe presumption of innocence," he told the court.

The Swedish authorities'' lawyer denied that Assange,39, had been vilified.

Sweden wants to extradite Assange over alleged sexualassaults on two women, which he denies.

Robertson said the Prime Minister''s comments this weekhad created a "toxic atmosphere" in Sweden.

Reinfeldt had reportedly responded to an attack on theimpartiality of Sweden''s legal system by Assange�s counsel bysaying that they had "patronised" Swedes. He also told SwedishMPs: "We do not accept sexual abuse or rape."

The counsel said they included claims that Assange andhis lawyers had been "condescending and damaging to Sweden,"and implied they thought women''s rights were worthless.

"Mr Assange is public enemy number one as a result ofthe Prime Minister''s statement," he argued.

Lawyer for Swedish authorities Clare Montgomery QC,however, denied that the Prime Minister had vilified Assange.

"You might think those who seek to fan the flames of a mediafirestorm can''t be surprised when they get burnt."

On the final day of the extradition hearing, thejudge said he was minded to take two weeks to decide on thepossible removal to Sweden.

Assange, an Australian citizen, was released on bailby a High Court judge in December after spending nine days inWandsworth prison.

He denies sexually assaulting two female supportersduring a visit to Stockholm in August and says the Swedishinvestigation is politically motivated.

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