WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange has been fighting a long legal battle regarding multiple rape allegations against him in Sweden, but his lawyer conceded Tuesday that he didn’t want to “challenge whether [the accusers] felt Assange’s conduct was disrespectful, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing at the boundaries of what they felt comfortable with,” The Guardian reported.
One of the women said that Assange initiated intercourse with her while she was sleeping, and that he was not wearing a condom, which the woman had already told him she did not want. Assange’s defense said that because she eventually agreed to continue the sex, the whole incident should be considered consensual.
Another woman claimed that Assange had tried to have unprotected sex with her, and she couldn’t physically hold him off. As Ben Emmerson, Assange’s lawyer described, she “tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. [She] says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.”
Assange is currently fighting against the case’s extradition to Sweden, where he claimed he would not receive a fair trial or full human rights. The Guardian published a lengthy summary of the charges against Assange, based on legal documents.
Previously, Assange’s legal team had argued that the women were “honeytraps,” and that they were merely spurned lovers taking out their anger at being shunted aside. Assange’s new legal team, led by Emmerson, however, seems to be taking a new angle in his defense.
In his opening argument in today’s London extradition hearing, Emmerson took a more sympathetic stance toward the accusers, and said “Nothing I say should be taken as denigrating the complainant, the genuineness of their feelings of regret, to trivialize their experience.”
Assange does not currently face charges in Sweden, because in the Swedish legal system, a case is first extradited and investigated, then those involved are charged.
Headline edited 12:26 EDT for clarity.