Lawyers for Julian Assange™ have said they want access to all files held by Swedish prosecutors on their client before they can grant an interview with him.
According to an AFP report, Assange's defence is to demand access to the Swedish officials' "förundersökningsprotokoll", a dossier normally only made available to the defence when the investigation phase has been completed, before a trial indictment "stämningsansökan" is filed.
The prosecutors wish to question Assange regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden while he was visiting the country in 2010. Having subsequently travelled to the UK, where he faced attempts to extradite him back to Sweden, Assange breached British bail conditions by taking sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He has now remained there for four years. Assange and his legal team have always maintained that he is at greater risk of extradition to the USA (over the Wikileaks/Manning affair which brought him to fame) in Sweden than he would be in Britain.
It was thought that the long-running deadlock which has seen Assange confined to the small Ecuadorian diplomatic premises in London for years might be at an end, with the recent suggestion that Swedish prosecutors would be willing to interview him there. But it remains unclear that this will take place.
Mark Klamberg, a legal expert at Uppsala University, told the Reg today:
"The Swedish prosecutor wants to question Assange before they complete the investigation – when this is done, Assange has the right to access the prosecution files."
Baltasar Garzón, head of Assange's legal team, told the AFP:
"We need to be provided access to the entirety of the proceedings, which for four and half years has been in the hands of the Swedish prosecution and not in the hands of the defence."
Garzón stated that the Assange defence team had yet to respond to the Swedish authorities' request for an interrogation to take place at the embassy.
"Of course we will agree to the interrogation, but they have to guarantee minimum prerequisites," he said, stressing that giving the defence access to the investigation files was "simply the minimum rights of any person subjected to a judicial process".
The request for full disclosure of the case file is non-standard procedure under Swedish law at this stage and has drawn criticism that Assange is actually seeking to avoid the interview. Klamberg, an expert in international law, told the Reg that Baltasar Garzón's request "lacks legal basis at this stage of the proceedings.
"Under Swedish law, and it follows from international human rights law, a defendant has the right to access or get hold of evidence and other material that prosecutor intends to use or has in his/her possession. However, this right may be derogated from to protect ongoing investigations provided that the defendant at a later point of time - but prior to the commencement of a trial - can access the information. Part of the rationale for this is that a suspect should not be able to adjust his/her story when questioned by the police."
Swedish Prosecution Authority spokesperson Karin Rosander told The Register that the prosecution's "normal procedure in interview situations is to provide some information to the defence team, but not everything relating to the matter," adding that "No formal request [from Assange's defence] has yet been made."
The Swedish prosecutor's statement regarding the possible London interview can be read here.
Klamberg told us that in his estimation several parties bore the responsibility for the current situation, but he was firm in stating that:
"Assange is responsible for breaching UK bail conditions and seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy."
El Reg will update with a WikiLeaks response when and if one is received. ®