LONDON — Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange launched an attack on the credibility of Swedish prosecutors and two women accusing the 39-year-old Australian of sexual assault, arguing on day one of an extradition hearing that he faces the prospect of a closed-door show trial if British authorities send him to Stockholm.
Assange, who is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual molestation, unlawful coercion and rape, appeared calm as he scribbled notes Monday in a London courtroom. The hearing, which is scheduled to end today, is to determine whether British authorities will agree to honor a Swedish warrant for Assange.
The warrant hinges on allegations by two Swedish women with whom Assange had brief affairs in Stockholm in August. Both claim that encounters with Assange became nonconsensual, with one saying he engaged in unwanted, unprotected sex with her while she was asleep, an act considered rape in Sweden.
Geoffrey Robertson, one of Assange's lead attorneys, argued that the alleged acts would not be considered crimes in Britain. He called to the stand a former Swedish judge, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, who described Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor seeking Assange's arrest, as an overzealous women's rights crusader with a bias against men.
Robertson said rape proceedings in Sweden are conducted in private, posing the risk of "a flagrant denial of justice."
The defense sought to paint the two accusers as jilted lovers out for revenge. Clare Montgomery, a prosecuting attorney, responded that the charges are serious.