By Jerry Smith June 25 2011
As Julian Assange prepares to return to court on July 12, to fight being extradited to Sweden, he has replaced British media attorney Mark Stephens with human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
In the past, Peirce has represented accused militants in high-profile cases, including prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. She has also represented the wrongly-convicted "Guildford Four," a group of Irish citizens whose conviction in an alleged IRA bomb plot was overturned after they spent years in prison. The “Guildford Four” are featured in the 1994 film 'In The Name Of The Father'.
Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson is still a member of Assange’s legal team, but that is expected change, particularly since both he and Peirce specialize in civil rights law.
Ben Emmerson, a human rights attorney who has served as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism will be the barrister who will present Assange’s case in the appellate hearing set for July 12 and July 13.
“There is nobody better than Gareth; she is the most client-centered lawyer I know. She was the most respected lawyer who was part of our team,” Michael Ratner, who worked with Peirce to obtain the successful release of three British terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay and having the charges against them dropped, said about Peirce joining the Assange legal team.
Peirce was interviewed by Tom Hayden on The Nation, via Skype, from her London offices last Thursday in Sweden, before word of her new client became public.
“The history of this case is as unfortunate as it is possible to imagine, in which encounters, undoubtedly believed by all parties at the time to be private, became inappropriately the subject of publicity and thereafter in consequence no doubt the more difficult to resolve. Each of the human beings involved deserves respect and consideration. It is hoped that whatever steps as are required to be taken in the future will be taken thoughtfully, with sensitivity and with such respect,” Peirce told Hayden.
Claes Borgström, a former Swedish equal opportunity ombudsperson and the attorney for Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin, the two women that are accusing Assange of rape and sexual molestation, which he strongly denies, also spoke to Hayden.
Borgström was asked by Hayden if he thought Assange would be extradited from Sweden to the United States sometime in the future. Borgström answered, “I hope not. And I believe that my clients [the two women] feel the same way. But you can’t print that”. When told then by Hayden that sources are supposed to request that statements they make be kept off-the-record before they make them, not after, Borgström repeated the same words about Assange’s potential extradition, with emphasis.
Still under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, Britain, Assange has stated his fear that if he is extradited to Sweden he may then be extradited to the United States, where he could face torture, confinement at Guantanamo Bay, both, or even the death penalty.
Assange angered the United States when WikiLeaks published the leaked, embarrassing diplomatic cables, the classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the 'Collateral Murder' video.