Text messages sent by the two women who accuse WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of rape and assault mention “revenge” and “economic gain,” according to testimony during the second day of his extradition hearing.
Defense witness Björn Hurtig said he was allowed under police supervision to examine hundreds of messages, which “suggest things that go against what the claimants have said regarding the rape.”
Hurtig, who is Assange’s attorney in Sweden, said he saw text messages “speaking of revenge” and taking “economic advantage” of Assange, who is wanted for questioning related to alleged incidents with two women in mid-August 2010.
He faces possible charges of unlawful coercion, sexual molestation and rape, but his legal team presents those accusations as a veiled attack related to WikiLeaks’ release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
During the two days of the hearing, Assange’s attorneys have sought to show that Swedish prosecutors conducted an irregular investigation and have improperly asked for his extradition.
On Tuesday, the court heard more expert testimony from former Swedish prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, who contended that Swedish prosecutors should have questioned him sooner when they decided to re-open the investigation.
Sweden initially dropped the case against Assange shortly after the accusations were made, but prosecutor Marianne Ny reopened the case. Assange volunteered for questioning by prosecutors on Aug. 30. However, he was allowed to leave Sweden in late September after prosecutors allegedly passed on further opportunities to speak with him, Alhem said.
“In my opinion she [Ny] should then have made sure Assange was given the opportunity to give his version of the events in detail,” Alhem said.
During his testimony Tuesday afternoon, Hurtig said he went back and forth with Ny trying to arrange a time for Assange to return to Sweden to be questioned to no avail.
Around that time, Assange was receiving “death threats in the media” and there was public talk that “he should be given a death sentence due to WikiLeaks,” Hurtig said. Assange went into hiding, intermittently communicating with him, Hurtig said. “As a consequence of this, Julian was worried,” he said.
Assange’s reputation was damaged when the Swedish prosecutor’s office told the tabloid newspaper Expressen that he was under investigation for rape shortly after the accusations were made. The leak violates Swedish law, he said.
The WikiLeaks founder maintains that his relations with the two women were consensual. The offenses with which he could be charged would not be offenses under British law, but he could face a maximum of four years in prison if convicted in Sweden.
Assange’s attorney, Geoffrey Robertson, argued on Monday that it was improper for Sweden to issue an extradition request without first charging the suspect. But Clare Montgomery, who is representing the British government, said it is proper as Swedish authorities have “sufficient intention” to prosecute.
Further case material has been posted online by Assange’s legal team.