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Assange assault accusers sought 'revenge,' attorneys say

Financial motive also alleged

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Text messages sent by the two women who accuse Julian Assange of sexually assaulting them refer to revenge and financial gain in messages that undercut the veracity of their claims, attorneys for the WikiLeaks founder said on Tuesday.

Testifying in Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in east London, defense witness Björn Hurtig said he was permitted to review hundreds of messages under police supervision, but was not allowed to copy them. Hurtig, Assange's Sweden-based attorney, said he read messages that spoke of "revenge" and taking “economic advantage" of his client, according to IDG News and other outlets.

Dozens of messages sent by one of the alleged victims, identified only as Miss W, go against her claim that Assange raped her while she slept during his 10-day visit to Stockholm in August, and suggest she has a “hidden agenda,” Hurtig said.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing, and said sexual relations with both women were entirely consensual.

Claims about the text messages came to light during the second day of hearings into whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden. Prosecutors there have said they want him available for questioning. They have issued a warrant for Assange's arrest but haven't filed charges in the case. The hearing is scheduled to resume on Friday.

Assange's attorneys also presented testimony from former Swedish prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, who said prosecutors should have questioned Assange sooner after deciding to reopen their investigation. The case was initially closed shortly after the assault allegations were made. Prosecutor Marianne Ny later reversed that decision.

“In my opinion [Ny] should then have made sure Assange was given the opportunity to give his version of the events in detail,” Alhem said. Defense witness Geoffrey Robertson testified on Monday that it was improper for prosecutors to issue an extradition request without first charging the suspect. Clare Montgomery, representing the British government, countered that authorities in Sweden have “sufficient intention” to prosecute.

Defense attorneys have also argued that if Assange is extradited, he could end up being forcibly transferred to the US, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and eventually executed.

Additional coverage from The Independent and The Telegraph are here and here. ®

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