Swedish minister to Julian Assange: turn yourself in

By Karl Ritter

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 10 2011 9:35 a.m. MST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, right, flanked by his lawyer Mark Stephens, speaks to the media outside Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. Assange's lawyer and a Swedish legal expert on Tuesday accused Swedish prosecutors irregularities and illegality in the way they built a sex crimes case against the WikiLeaks founder. Assange was in a London courtroom for a second day Tuesday, fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over claims of rape and sexual molestation made by two Swedish women.

Alastair Grant, Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should turn himself in for questioning in a Swedish rape investigation and has no reason to worry about not getting a fair trial, Sweden's justice minister said Thursday.

Beatrice Ask's comments to The Associated Press reveal the irritation among senior Swedish officials at the arguments used by Assange's lawyers in fighting his extradition in a British court, where closing arguments are set for Friday.

The lawyers defending Assange, who is accused of sexual misconduct against two Swedish women, say a closed-door trial in Sweden would represent "a flagrant denial of justice."

They also say he risks being handed over to the United States, which is investigating whether Assange's secret-spilling website should be held responsible for leaking classified information.

Assange "has a lot of prejudice," Ask said in an interview at the Swedish Parliament. "I think it's beyond doubt that we are very careful about the independence and quality of the justice system in this country.

"Everyone is equal before the law. He is suspected, accused of a serious crime and should of course present himself for interrogation," she said.

Leaked police documents show one of Assange's accusers claims he initiated sex with her while she was sleeping, which can be considered rape under Swedish law. The other claims he purposely damaged a condom and pinned her down while having consensual sex. Assange denies wrongdoing.

He met both women in connection with a seminar on free speech in Stockholm in August.

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