Britain’s most high-profile human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson on Wednesday volunteered to represent the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who his fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces a string of charges relating to sexual offences.
Mr Robertson, who has appeared in some of Britain’s most famous trials, cut short his holiday in Australia and returned to Britain to join Mr Assange’s legal team.
Mr Assange was in a London jail after being arrested on Tuesday and remanded to judicial custody until December 14 following a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish authorities.
He was refused bail despite generous offers of bail guarantees by a group of leading public figures including film-maker Ken Loach, journalist John Pilger and Jemima Khan, wife of former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan. One of the grounds for refusing bail to Mr Assange was said to be the fact that he did not have any permanent address in Britain and the judge ruled that he might “flee’’ if allowed bail.
Experts said that it was “notoriously difficult’’ to get bail in cases involving rape allegations.
Mr Robertson’s intervention came amid reports that Mr Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens was not allowed to meet him. Mr Stephens described his client’s arrest as “politically motivated’’ and said he would file a fresh bail application.
Sweden’s prosecution service insisted that the case it had initiated against Mr Assange had “nothing to do with WikiLeaks’’ rejecting accusations that it had acted under American pressure.
“The criminal investigation has nothing with WikiLeaks. It concerns him personally. I want to make it clear that I have not been put under any kind of pressure, political or otherwise,’’ Marianne Ny, director of public prosecution said.
There were growing fears that American authorities might seize the moment to seek Mr Assange’s extradition on allegations of espionage for his role in releasing secret government documents. British political leaders were reported to be watching a “close eye’’ on the case.
The Independent newspaper claimed that “informal discussions’’ had already been held between American and Swedish authorities on the possibility of him being “delivered into US custody’’ in the event that he was extradited to Sweden.