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Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Sunday, 5 December 2010

Transcript of Mark Stephens interview

On Sunday 5th December Andrew Marr interviewed Mark Stephens, the solicitor for Julian Assange, wikileaks founder.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

ANDREW MARR:

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose website sensationally published thousands of classified US government cables, has become a wanted man across the globe. Assange, an Australian journalist, is being hunted for a raft of political and allegedly criminal activities. His rise to global prominence started earlier this year after Wikileaks published top secret government documents and revealed all those embarrassing details of America's foreign conflicts and what their diplomats were saying. Last week his stock among the American administration plummeted even further when his website released the private thoughts of more of those diplomats on a range, as we were talking about earlier on, of controversial topics, and his lawyer Mark Stephens is with me now.

MARK STEPHENS:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Good morning. Let me ask you a couple of things about Mr Assange's position itself. He is facing what have been described as alleged rape allegations from Sweden and there is a drive to make him go to Sweden to face those. What is your reaction to the seriousness of this charge because it appears on the face of it to be very serious indeed?

MARK STEPHENS:

It does, and of course, as people here would understand, rape is a serious charge. In Sweden, it's quite bizarre though because the prosecutor, the chief prosecutor, the Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Sweden, dropped the entire case against him saying there was absolutely nothing for him to face back in September. And then a few weeks ago, after the intervention of a Swedish politician, a new prosecutor - not in Stockholm where Julian and these women have been, but in Gothenburg - began a new case, which of course has resulted in these warrants and of course the Interpol red notice being put out across this week.

ANDREW MARR:

So you're saying it's basically a political stunt?

MARK STEPHENS:

It does seem to be a political stunt. I mean I have and his Swedish lawyer have been trying to get in touch with the prosecutors since August. Now usually it's the prosecutor who does the pursuing, not the pursued, and in this particular case Julian Assange has tried to vindicate himself, has tried to meet with the prosecutor to have his good name restored. His name has been comprehensively traduced.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you expect a warrant to be issued then?

MARK STEPHENS:

I think a warrant was issued on Thursday by reports. We've asked for it and we've been told that … well been ignored at this point. We haven't been given a copy.

ANDREW MARR:

Of course no-one knows … Well you know where he is presumably at the moment?

MARK STEPHENS:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

We read that he's in fear of his life. Is that hysteria?

MARK STEPHENS:

I think that it's interesting to note that people as high up the American tree as Sarah Palin have called for him to be hunted down by American special forces like the Taliban and assassinated. We've seen a number of suggestions that he should be assassinated, again from credible sources around the world. And this is all about a man who's a journalist. He received unbidden an electronic brown envelope - the brown envelope that the Pentagon papers and journalists like you receive every day of the year …

ANDREW MARR:

Sadly not, but I take your point.

MARK STEPHENS:

Yeah, but of course this particular journalist has put it out and what they are doing is criminalising him, criminalising journalistic activity, and we've seen that move to universities and civil service.

ANDREW MARR:

Now another thing that we read today is that he has a file, a further file of even more damaging and explosive information which he is keeping as a kind of insurance policy.

MARK STEPHENS:

Yuh, this isn't in relation to the Swedish matter. That still stands alone. It's because he's had these huge number of cyber attacks on Wikileaks and of course the organisation wants to defend itself. At the moment only 261 cables have been released out of 250,000, and of course …

ANDREW MARR:

Is there more damaging material - I mean more damaging than we've seen so far - waiting to go?

MARK STEPHENS:

I think there's equally … material of equal importance in terms of news gathering.

ANDREW MARR:

And is this going to be used by Wikileaks as a kind of threat: close us down and see what we'll do next?

MARK STEPHENS:

Well I think the problem is that they have been the subject of the cyber attacks, they've been the subject of censorship around the world and they need to protect themselves, and this is I think what they believe to be a thermonuclear device effectively in the electronic age.

ANDREW MARR:

Presumably the police also know where Mr Assange is? Are you waiting for the knock on the door for a deportation case?

MARK STEPHENS:

No.

ANDREW MARR:

You don't think he'll be deported?

MARK STEPHENS:

The police know where he is. The Swedish prosecutor knows where he is and she could ring up at any moment. And of course the problem with that is that if you're the woman who's made a complaint, or indeed if you're Julian Assange and your name has been traduced so comprehensively, why on earth don't you pick up the phone and have a meeting? He's not been charged with anything, he's only wanted for interview, so why not have that interview by consent rather than this show trial?

ANDREW MARR:

And, therefore, if there is an attempt to deport your client to Sweden, will you be fighting that?

MARK STEPHENS:

Well I'm really rather worried by the political motivations that appear to be behind this. I mean I've dealt with cases of some high political nature in the past and it doesn't escape my attention that Sweden was one of those lickspittle states which used its resources and its facilities for rendition flights. And given the bellicose statements coming out of America, with John Bellinger, the man who approved of torture …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So you think if he goes to Sweden, he may be sent to the States?

MARK STEPHENS:

Certainly my mind's very open about that.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And you may fight it on that basis?

MARK STEPHENS:

Certainly.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. For now, thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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