Assange Due In London Court Over Sex-Crimes Probe
DON GONYEA, host:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail today, by a British court. He's been locked up in one of the biggest prisons in Europe and fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning in a sex crimes case. He and his lawyers say the accusations are political. But in Sweden, the view of this entire case is a little different. NPR's Philip Reeves has more.
PHILIP REEVES: London's Wandsworth Prison is a tough place, even for un-convicted remand prisoners like Assange.
His lawyer, Mark Stephens, says Assange is getting by, though it's not easy.
Mr. MARK STEPHENS (Attorney): Julian is a sort of a bit lost without his computer, although the prison authorities said that they will give him an Internet-disabled computer in due course. And he's finding it very boring, because he hates British daytime television.
REEVES: Stephens says Assange still hasn't actually been formally charged with anything. He says the Swedish authorities simply want him for questioning about evidence of alleged sex crimes that Stephens says Assange knows little about.
Mr. STEPHENS: Every prosecutor around the world will tell you that it is an obligation, and particularly in Sweden, that you tell a person who's going to be questioned what the nature of the allegations are and what the evidence is against them. And as we sit here now, he hasn't got that.
(Soundbite of crowd chatter)
REEVES: In Sweden's capital, Stockholm, many say they admire WikiLeaks and approve of its mission to create transparency and accountability. Yet they also balk at any suggestion that Sweden's government is somehow part of an elaborate plot against Assange.
This Nordic nation's nine million or so citizens tend to have faith in their judicial system and their politicians, far more so than other nations, says Klare Hradivlova-Celin of Sweden's National Council of Crime Prevention.
Ms. KLARE HRADIVLOVA-CELIN (National Council of Crime Prevention): I think the public has very, very high confidence in the judicial system in Sweden - in the state in general, actually. And there's also a strong tradition of that.
(Soundbite of crowd chatter)
REEVES: Anna Lunden, one of a crowd milling through Stockholm's old city last night, thinks Assange should come to Sweden to face his accusers.
Ms. ANNA LUNDEN: Why should he be not guilty because he's famous?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. LUNDEN: I don't know.
REEVES: You're just saying keep an open mind, are you?
Ms. LUNDEN: Exactly. Yes, definitely. I mean, bigger men than he have been using women. I don't know.
REEVES: Assange is accused of committing sex-related crimes against two women in Sweden in August.
James Savage is the managing editor of The Local, an English-language news outlet based in Stockholm.
Mr. JAMES SAVAGE (Managing Editor, The Local): We know a lot about one of them, a political activist. She knew Julian Assange. She got to know him through the WikiLeaks thing. So she met him. The other woman, he is believed to have met at a party, and she lives some distance away from Stockholm. She's a bit younger. She's, I believe, in her 20's.
REEVES: Josephin Brink, a member of Sweden's parliament, says she likes what WikiLeaks is doing, yet she's disappointed that some well-known activists -such as the journalist John Pilger and film director Ken Loach who've rallied to Assange's side - appear to have decided that he's innocent.
Ms. JOSEPHIN BRINK (Member of Parliament, Sweden): I find it rather depressing that these rather iconic left persons stand up and say, as if they knew, that he cannot be guilty of this, this has to be a honey trap, and so on. And obviously, they have no idea whether it's a honey trap or not.
REEVES: In Sweden, the concept of an American conspiracy generally isn't getting much traction, says James Savage of The Local.
Mr. SAVAGE: I think Swedes are very skeptical about the conspiracy theories. I think if you look at the way the Swedish justice system works and the fact that prosecutors really are independent, when you look at that and when Swedes look at that, they think I can't see how the government could have conspired to arrange this arrest and these charges.
Philip Reeves, NPR News, Stockholm.
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