At 13:00 July 16, hearings were held in the Stockholm District Court whether to lift the almost-four-year-old detention in absentia for Julian Assange. This has been live reporting from the court hearings, which were followed by a press conference at the District Court.
(Entries are bottom to top with the newest entry first.)
Jul 16 18:52 - According to Associated Press, Assange’s lawyers (Thomas Olsson and Per E Samuelsson) will appeal today’s verdict.
Jul 16 18:41 - The official verdict from the Stockholm District Court, in English, is here.
Jul 16 18:39 - (No more news from today’s hearing. Liveblog ends.)
Jul 16 18:14 - It would increasingly appear as though Julian Assange’s actual crime was “pissing off the United States”, just like the operators of The Pirate Bay. The Defense was walking all over the Prosecution in this hearing, literally quoting chapter and verse to show on the record that they are – and I am not exaggerating – criminally lazy on the job.
Jul 16 18:08 - VERDICT: Julian Assange is to REMAIN in detention in absentia. Just announced.
Jul 16 17:28 - According to side-channels from the Court to Swedish media, the verdict will probably be further delayed: “18:00 at earliest”. This is, of course, just a qualified guess.
Jul 16 17:20 - It’s also important to remember that a lifted detention in absentia does not, repeat not, mean a closed or dismissed case. It does, however, mean that the Prosecution will have to deal respectfully with Assange without being able to restrict his movement in the continued investigation. If there is any.
Jul 16 17:18 - The press conference has still not started, despite being announced to start at 17:00.
Jul 16 17:17 - It’s been my consistent impression that the Defense was just steamrolling all over the Prosecution in this hearing. But this is a political trial, and I’ve seen those before. In those, common sense don’t apply, and the victor can be predetermined and therefore spit gibberish in the hearings if they like, they’ll still win.
Jul 16 17:14 - Regardless of appeals, if this court lifts its previous detention in absentia, it’s undoubtedly a brighter picture even on appeal. Still waiting for a verdict.
Jul 16 17:12 - It’s unclear whether and how this verdict (continued or discontinued detention) can be appealed, considering the Stockholm District Court issued the detention in absentia in the first place. If the same court lifts its previous order, how can that be appealed, and what are the precise mechanisms? Unsure.
Jul 16 17:08 - Press conference in Stockholm District Court, announcing the verdict, is about to start.
Jul 16 16:48 - Hearings are over [as of about 16:20]. The court closes its doors for deliberations.
Jul 16 16:48 - Prosecution, final statement: “The European Arrest Warrant did in no way prevent Assange from coming to Sweden. Quite the opposite, it would have made sure he traveled to Sweden. While this may have been a question of form and comfort rather than actual destination, the EAW did not prevent Assange from traveling to Sweden as such.”
Jul 16 16:46 - Defense: “This case also breaks three other Swedish judicial principles. One, use of force must not only be necessary and in the public interest. Two, it must also be effective, and the use of force must cease when it is no longer effective. In this case, the rules say, the detention shall – shall – be lifted. There’s also the question whether a continued detention is even legal. The court approved a detention because of a flight risk, which was a legitimate reason. However, we know now that this is no longer valid. It cannot be effectuated. The only reason for the Prosecution to keep him detained at this point is to pressure him into abandoning his right to asylum – and this is not legal. Detention may never be used against a defendant to force them into admitting guilt or to make them surrender rights. Third, the proportionality principle: no matter what happens, a continued detention has no positive effects for the Swedish state nor for this case, but it has enormous negative effects for Assange.”
Jul 16 16:46 - Defense plays back clips from Fox News and other channels with political commentators stating Assange should be assassinated, calling him a terrorist, an enemy of the state, his organization a “weapon of mass destruction”, illustrating a clear and present danger to his person justifying political asylum. Defense argues that this shows clearly that Assange needs to exercise his political asylum, without that action being motivated by evading Swedish law. [UPDATED: Added link to video shown by Defense]
Jul 16 16:46 - Defense: “I’d like to play back this clip.” / Court: “That’s not possible. There’s a sound cable missing. Defense didn’t inform they’d be playing sound, just video.” Court starts digging through drawers looking for a sound cable for several minutes.
Jul 16 16:45 - Defense: “In an excerpt from Ecuador’s granting of asylum … it becomes clear that Ecuador is protecting Assange from Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Australia, from persecution in the United States. This has absolutely nothing to do with a Swedish legal case. The conclusion is that the assertion from the Prosecution that Assange only has himself to blame is nonsense on a pure legal basis; there are good reasons for political asylum which Ecuador has listed.”
Jul 16 16:45 - Defense: “In the UN Declaration of Human Rights, it’s clear that political asylum is not just a right to apply for, but also a right to enjoy and exercise, once granted. It’s absolutely clear that Prosecution’s points are in complete violation with international law.”
Jul 16 16:45 - Defense: “Applying for political asylum – is this even something reasonably encompassed in the concept of flight risk? First, you have to separate the application for asylum, and it actually being granted. If somebody is actively evading the law on their own, that’s one thing, but this is not what’s happened here. Assange can’t give himself this asylum. Prosecution is plain wrong in saying Assange did this on his own. He applied for political asylum, but a sovereign country granted it to him. That’s a legitimate mechanism. Granting somebody asylum can’t with any reason be construed to aid and abet a fugitive, of being a flight risk in the legal sense. International law requires respect for the institution of political asylum.”
Jul 16 16:44 - Defense: “Then what legal relevance does it have where the fingers are pointed? Prosecution is pointing at Assange, who applied for political asylum. We’re pointing at the Prosecution. It’s the Prosecution who have a duty under law to be active in an investigation, and not the defendant.“
Jul 16 16:44 - Defense: “By staying in the embassy, Assange has evaded British police and prevented effecutation of the detention, claims the Prosecution. He has chosen to stay in the embassy, they say. I’m not yet at that point, at proportionality. Rather, does the Prosecution have a legal right to stay passive? The answer, legally, is no. Prosecution is breaking the law in their handling of this case.”
Jul 16 16:44 - Defense: “The prosecution is actively choosing to refrain from completing the investigation, with the justification that “Assange must come to Sweden for a trial or jail anyway” — this is a behavior that’s disgraceful for the Prosecution. This is not up the Prosecution. A sentence is communicated by a Court, and not by the Prosecution.”
Jul 16 16:44 - Defense: “Since Assange has been granted political asylum, force can no longer be applied. The Court must lift the detention, and thereby force the Prosecution to move ahead with the investigation as a case where the defendant has freedom to roam.”
Jul 16 16:43 - Defense: “What else? Well, this weakens the Defense, too. Björn Hurtig asked for hearings in London in fall 2010. We asked the same July 4 2012 in a mail, and repeated it in an in-person meeting. If the Prosecution had done what they were legally obliged to do all along, we [the Defense] would also be able to see the entire case by now. The behavior of the Prosecution is damaging the ability for Assange to mount a legal defense, which is his right. Passivity on the behalf of the Prosecution is not acceptable.”
Jul 16 16:43 - Defense: “Hearings must be held in a time and place which brings the least inconvenience to the heard, unless there is significant danger to the investigation. This is a hard and fast law, and it is no secret at all where Assange is located. Prosecution is choosing to break this law.”
Jul 16 16:43 - Defense: “This investigation is in the exact same state today, in 2014, as it was four years ago, in 2010. This can lead to one or more hearings. But it’s not a complex investigation. After this hearing, it’s time for the Prosecution to decide whether to press charges or not. The fact that this has not moved at all in four years is due to the facts that Attorney Olsson [the other defense attorney] just enumerated: detention for one and a half years, and a political asylum with deadlock for two years. We are at a de-facto deadlock. The only action Prosecution intends to take is to wait out the arrest warrant and wait for Assange to be brought to Sweden. My question to this court: is the Prosecution even formally allowed to just sit down and wait, doing nothing? The response is a clear and resounding NO: This kind of passiveness is not allowed beacuse of actions on behalf of the defendant, in particular not within their legal rights. What duty does the Proseuction have to drive the investigation forward, rather than staying passive, offering nothing but a continued deadlock? Who bears the responsibility? The Court must carry this responsibility, for the Prosecution has shown no intention whatsoever to execute anything but passiveness in this case. The basic fault in the thought process with the Prosecution is that they’re just pointing fingers and find it possible to sit down and do absolutely nothing, which is in violation of the right to a speedy trial [“skyndsamhetskrav”] in the law.”
Jul 16 16:43 - Court has resumed [at 15:20]. Because of connectivity issues in the courtroom, the timestamps won’t match – they’re spread out from 15:20 onward, in reality. They’re posted after recess because the courtroom prevented mobile phone signals.
Jul 16 14:59 - The court takes a twenty-minute break.
Jul 16 14:59 - Defense repeats earlier points that Prosecution must have understood that Assange can’t stay in Sweden forever, and that Assange can be hard to reach, and hammers home the point that absolutely nothing in this justifies the use of force that Prosecution has applied.
Jul 16 14:58 - Defense: “There’s a completely unreasonable dragging-out of time here, causing significant harm to Assange. It has been in everybody’s interest to just go there and hear him, but this hasn’t even been tried.”
Jul 16 14:57 - Defense accuses Prosecution of being plain lazy in not going to London to hear Assange. “It’s too much work.”
Jul 16 14:56 - Defense compares to a case where somebody was suspected of genocide, a much more serious crime, and had been detained for three years. This had been appealed to the European Court of Justice, and after three years, the case was dropped because the defendant had not had a speedy trial. This case has now dragged on for three and a half years. “If he hadn’t complained to the ECJ, he wouldn’t have been detained for three years, so it’s his own fault”, by the Prosecution’s logic. However, the Supreme Court is brutal in its verdict that a person exhausting their legal options cannot and must not be held against them.
Jul 16 14:52 - Defense: “Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador on August 16, 2012. There has been a clear and present danger in the form of threats from the United States, ranging from extradition to plain assassination and execution. The United Kingdom is bound to respect Ecuador’s asylum. Assange has been on the Ecuadorian embassy since June 19, 2012, which has cost the British [enormous amount] and which the British is starting to consider Sweden liable for. In all this time, Assange has not even been able to go outdoors, something normally considered a human right – even detainees in jail are given outdoors time. However, since Assange has shown no intention of surrendering his asylum, there is no purpose to continued detention: it serves no purpose and must therefore be lifted. Assange has a full legal right to maintain his political asylum, and therefore, the detention serves no further purpose. This has now dragged on for three years and six months. In this time, in all this time, Assange has been restrained in various ways, everything from jail to something resembling a permanent house arrest.”
Jul 16 14:47 - Defense: “During these one and a half years, Assange has not been able to maintain a normal life. This is not a British citizen but an Australian citizen. He has been unable to have an income, unable to keep in touch with his family. He has been trapped in a foreign country, unable to fulfill professional or social obligations. Prosecution has used very unusual force in locking Assange in London in this way.”
Jul 16 14:45 - Defense: “During these one and a half years, Assange’s freedom was severely restricted: he was unable to travel, unable to see his family, and unable to have an income, and this was solely use to Prosecution’s actions and use of force. It is clear to the Defense that the Prosecution has been obligated to go to London and hear him: Assange has been unable to travel to Sweden because of Prosecution’s very actions. Defense refers to a case where the prosecution says it’s “impractical” to hear a defendent abroad, coming across as plain lazy. This case was struck down by the Supreme Court for the specific reason that the defendant had repeatedly invited Prosecution to hear him on location. Defense draws clear and direct parallels to this case, except this case is much more serious with disproportionate effects.
Jul 16 14:41 - Defense: “On December 7, Assange was apprehended and detained in London. From December 16, he was electronically shackled with an obligation to report daily to a police station. He was in partial house arrest. He had had his passport rescinded, and had been ordered by a court to not acquire travel documents. So from December 7, 2010, until June 14, 2012, Assange had no practical possibility of coming to Sweden for a hearing. Prosecution’s argument that Julian could have let himself be arrested is nonsense; an accused always has a right to exhaust their legal options, and this must never be held against them.”
Jul 16 14:39 - Defense: “There has never ever been a statement from Assange to refuse a hearing.”
Jul 16 14:37 - Defense: “It’s easy to see, looking at the time frame leading up to September 27, that Assange has showed up to a hearing, has stayed in Sweden, has asked the prosecution whether there would be a problem leaving Sweden, and that Assange could not stay in Sweden indefinitely waiting for whatever the Prosecution was doing. Nowhere here is there anything constituting anything resembling a flight risk (in the legal sense). Also, there was nothing preventing Prosecution and Assange to agree on a date for a hearing, and there was a tentative date set in October. It’s correct that it was hard to reach Assange. But this was a PRACTICAL matter, which does never constitute a flight risk. Flight risk must be based on intent of flight, not practical difficulties.“
Jul 16 14:34 - Defense: “Assange leaving Sweden on September 27, 2010 was planned well in advance and was based on a planned keynote in Berlin, and was not related to this case or any imaginary flight risk.”
Jul 16 14:33 - Defense enumerates the threat situations against Assange, and shows an article from [UPDATED:] Washington Times with the headline “Assassinate Assange”, with his face against a target with blood spilling out the back of his head. Defense argues that it’s beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a clear and present danger against Assange’s person, and that he has reason to fear being abducted to the United States and fear for his health, liberty, and even life. By reason of this, Defense argues, Assange has a good and valid reason to be careful to announce his whereabouts at all times, and that this had absolutely nothing to do with this case. [UPDATED: Clarified “American media” to “Washington Times”, which was named in hearing and stated to be a well-known publication; linked to article and its graphics; and added “blood out the back of his head” describing graphic, which was said in hearings but not initially noted here]
Jul 16 14:30 - Defense: “One can clearly see that when these charges were filed, including when the decision was made to re-open some dismissed charges, Assange was visiting Sweden. He’s an Australian citizen and well known; it comes to a surprise to no one that he does a lot of travel and works internationally. Therefore, it’s unreasonable to assume that Assange had no need whatsoever to leave the country to do ordinary work. Still, Assange deliberately chose to stay in Sweden and showed up to the first hearing on August 30 . He shows no flight tendencies whatsoever. After that point, Assange stayed in Sweden until September 27. There were a few contacts between Prosecution and Defense in this time frame, when Defense asked if there was anything preventing Assange from leaving the country. Therefore, Prosecution was well aware that Assange had an interest in international travel.”
Jul 16 14:27 - Defense: “Prosecution hasn’t taken any action that would indicate this is a matter of a serious nature. Even if there would be a public interest to theoretically move ahead with all charges ever filed, the nature of this case clearly shows that the ends can’t justify the means.”
Jul 16 14:25 - Defense: “As for how these allegations were originally filed, there are considerable irregularities. The intention of the original accusers were NOT to press charges but something completely different, and there is considerable doubt whether the alleged actions even constitute a criminal act.”
Jul 16 14:24 - Defense: “As for the flight risk: this may be acceptable as an argument in the general case. However, in this case specifically, there are several facts talking against a public interest of allowing any means imaginable to conduct this investigation, in particular the unacceptable time elapsed. First, the allegations are not one of the more serious crimes in the Swedish Law. We’re not talking about murder, genocide or terrorism. The Court must consider that the severity of the alleged crimes presented by the Prosecution is limited, and can’t justify any arbitrary use of force against a suspect.”
Jul 16 14:21 - Defense: “The third principle is the principle of expedience, saying that any accused has the right to a speedy trial. These three principles are pillars in a democratic state. Putting a suspect in detention during the entire investigation would be considered by many to be considerably more use of force than sentencing somebody to jail following a trial – and, importantly: detention is only allowed to be used as an exceptional tool. It is not allowed to be used to be used by Prosecution and Police as a general rule or to get less work.”
Jul 16 14:19 - Defense criticizes Prosecution that any unclarity must speak to the favor of the defendant, rather than in favor of use of more force.
Jul 16 14:18 - Defense criticizes Prosecution that they haven’t justified how a continued detention remains in the public interest (European Convention on Human Rights specifies that a restriction in freedom must be necessary, effective, and proportionate).
Jul 16 14:17 - Defense calls on European Convention on Human Rights point 5.3, the presumtion of innocence.
Jul 16 14:17 - Defense: “There are three principles here. The necessity and proportionality principles, being applicable on the detention themselves, but also on the effectuation of this detention. Defense argues that you can’t effecutate a detention by any means available [letting the ends justify the means] but must evaluate whether the means applied must be evaluated whether they are proportionate to the presumed gains.”
Jul 16 14:15 - Defense: “We claim this detention must be lifted. Is it reasonable to keep Assange detained given these circumstances? Prosecution brings up three issues, and in combination, Defense means they lead to unreasonable consequences. The first is the time passed. In Assange’s case, it’s the lack of progress in the case that has the real effect [and not an arbitrary day count in jail]. The second is the effects to Assange’s personal situation and the restrictions on his freedom, in real effect. The third is how the case has been handled by the Prosecution, and specificially, the Prosecution’s refusal to go to London to hear Assange.
Jul 16 14:12 - Defense opens.
Jul 16 14:12 - Prosecution compares to other cases which appear peripheral to the argumentation. Prosecution closes: “There are no reasons whatsoever to re-evaluate this detention. There is a clear and present flight risk and we don’t consider a continued detention disproportionate.”
Jul 16 14:11 - Prosecution: “We do not consider a continued detention disproportionate. Assange has not been formally detained more than ten days; he has chosen to restrict his own freedom over and above in Ecuador’s embassy in London, but we argue that the time detained should count as the ten days in British jail. His time in the embassy is not a restriction of freedom effected and under control of the State.”
Jul 16 14:09 - Prosecution: “We have tried the question of hearing Assange in London and dismissed the idea as not effective.”
Jul 16 14:08 - Prosecution: “We would not be able to conduct a secure and just investigation, were we to go to London to conduct the hearings.” Prosecution compares to a case where they did go abroad, which was a case concerning economic crime.
Jul 16 14:06 - Prosecution: “There are several reasons we haven’t made hearings in London. This kind of allegation don’t work well for leaving public defenders or prosecutors on foreign soil, and we can’t apply force for taking DNA samples and similar if we consider it necessary. Besides, we can’t hold a trial in London. We’ve re-evaluated this continuously.”
Jul 16 14:04 - Prosecution: “We have exhausted everything speaking in favor of the defendant. There’s nothing we’re withholding from his lawyers in that regard.”
Jul 16 14:02 - Prosecution appears trying to define political asylum as a “flight risk”.
Jul 16 14:02 - Prosecution: “We are arguing that Assange has deliberately refused to come to Sweden for this hearing … and have learned that Assange has no intention of coming to Sweden to such a hearing … which we consider to fill the definition of a flight risk.” Prosecution handwaves and tries to diminish a point of proportionality, which the defense will probably pounce on.
Jul 16 14:00 - Prosecution talks about the possibility of traveling to London to hear Julian Assange. “We didn’t know where he was until December. We also tried repeated attempts to contact Assange through his lawyer, Björn Hurtig. This led to prosecutor Marianne Ny detaining Assange in absentia on Sep 27 2010.” … “These statements that the Prosecution has failed trying to hear Assange are forcefully refuted.” … “Detaining in absentia appeared as the only way to proceed with the investigation.”
Jul 16 13:57 - Prosecution begins talking about “risk of flight”.
Jul 16 13:57 - “The negotiations are now public again.” We are let back into the room. Guards remind us that no recording of sound or video is permitted.
Jul 16 13:56 - It’s been over 30 minutes since the doors closed when the defense wanted to show something on-screen, after the first few minutes where the court just exchanged opening pleasantries. The effect of today’s proceedings remains uncertain: if the detention in absentia in Sweden is lifted, that’s one thing, but what’s keeping Julian Assange locked into a room in an Ecuadorian embassy is an Interpol Red Notice. In other words, the internation arrest warrant must be revoked, which is a separate step from lifting the Swedish detention. Will the Prosecution do that if they lose today’s proceedings? They would be supposed to.
Jul 16 13:55 - It’s been over 30 minutes since the doors closed when the defense wanted to show something on-screen, after the first few minutes where the court just exchanged opening pleasantries. The effect of today’s proceedings remains uncertain: if the detention in absentia in Sweden is lifted, that’s one thing, but what’s keeping Julian Assange locked into a room in an Ecuadorian embassy is an Interpol Red Notice. In other words, the internation arrest warrant must be revoked, which is a separate step from lifting the Swedish detention. Will the Prosecution do that if they lose today’s proceedings? They would be supposed to.
Jul 16 13:47 - Still waiting. More nothing.
Jul 16 13:39 - We’re still waiting outside of room 27. There are quite a few reporters here talking to members of the public, including from the large news agencies. They’re typing a lot on laptops, despite oxygen-starved standing room only.
Jul 16 13:30 - We’re still standing outside room 27 with no sign of what’s happening behind closed doors.
Jul 16 13:22 - We of the public are standing waiting outside room 27 in the Stockholm District Court.
Jul 16 13:20 - Network is painfully inadequate. (Testing.)
Jul 16 13:19 - Before the doors closed, prosecutor and defender presented their respective stances. No surprises there: Defense; “we call for the detention of Julian Assange to be lifted, effective immediately”. Prosecution: “We object to this motion and call for its dismissal.” After that, the defense wanted to “show something” on-screen, at which point the court closed its doors to the public. This is not unusual for sensitive parts of trials dealing with privacy-sensitive material.
Jul 16 13:14 - Parties greet each other. The court starts off by closing its doors and chasing everybody out, to resume public parts later.
Jul 16 13:10 - Call over the PA system: “Renewed-detention negotiations, Prosecutor v Assange. Parties and representatives are called to room 37″. Room 27 opens; we of the public pour in.
Jul 16 13:04 - It’s almost five past the hour, and the room has still not opened. Rumors in the audience here say that the press conference with the Police afterward won’t be open to the public and is by pre-announced presence only.
Jul 16 13:03 - Some people have asked me why I haven’t taken a clear stance on this issue. The explanation is simple: since I have first-hand observations of the events surrounding the allegations, if this should ever come to trial, I would be a defense witness (and I have left a deposition with the Police to that effect). Therefore, I have refrained from speculating on the case in the media, given that such speculation could burn my testimony, and I consider that to be more valuable than a random voice with opinions. When people have asked me about my opinions anyway, I have pointed to the fact that I’m slated to be a defense witness and asked them if they can draw any conclusions from that, refusing to elaborate further.
Jul 16 13:00 - The room (27) has not opened yet. Maybe 30 people of the public are gathered outside. I recognize many or most of them.
Jul 16 12:58 - Test
Jul 16 12:57 - Only people with media accreditation are being let into the room where the actual court proceedings are held (room 37 in the Stockholm District Court) – the public is only welcome to an audio feed of the proceedings, which is fed to a room on a different floor (room 27). This mirrors the mock trial of The Pirate Bay, which was done the same way, in this very court, actually.