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​Happy birthday, Assange! Swedish court sets hearing date as whistleblower turns 43

Published time: July 03, 2014 23:28
Julian Assange  (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)

Julian Assange (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)

A Swedish court has set the date for the Assange “rape case” hearing for July 16. The announcement comes as Twitter is bombarded with happy birthday wishes to the WikiLeaks founder, who turned 43 on Thursday, his second year at the Ecuadorean embassy.

The public hearing at Stockholm district court will be the first legal move in the case since the WikiLeaks founder requested asylum in the South-American country’s embassy in 2012.

However, it is more than likely that in two weeks from now the hearing will kick off without the defendant.

Julian Assange, now 43, is still at the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK capital, and showing no signs of getting ready to travel to Stockholm. Should he leave the embassy – even to greet his fans who came to the embassy with happy birthday banners – the whistleblower will be arrested and extradited to Sweden.

Since Swedish prosecutors do not consider the possibility of questioning the WikiLeaks founder in London, Stockholm district court extended Assange’s invitation to come to Sweden for the hearing.

The invitation for Assange was sent to an "address unknown", the Guardian reported. There are valid reasons, the court said, why he may not attend the hearing, like public transport, sudden illness, or unforeseen circumstances.

If Assange has no good reason not to attend, he was advised to arrive on time and "clear your pockets of metal objects and put them in the plastic bins provided", the newspaper cited the court’s letter to the whistleblower.

Assange’s lawyers recently asked the Swedish government to withdraw a warrant that has kept him confined in Ecuador’s London Embassy for two years. However, prosecutors rejected the demand.

His legal team argued that restrictions of "fundamental freedoms" since the allegations were made in 2010 are unreasonable and disproportionate, but the prosecutor disagreed saying that confinement in the embassy was self-imposed and "cannot be equated with detention", The Guardian reports.

"In our opinion, when assessing proportionality, only the time [detained] for questioning in the English courts should be taken into account," the Guardian cited prosecutors Marianne Ny and Ingred Isgren. They pointed out that Assange was arrested for just 10 days in December 2010.

"There is still probable cause to believe that Julian Assange is guilty of the offences that he was arrested for, and the basis for his detention, risk of flight, is undiminished," they also said.

Assange has been wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of the rape and sexual assault of two women, charges he denies. Swedish authorities issued a warrant for Assange’s extradition back in 2012, forcing the WikiLeaks founder to seek asylum in Ecuador’s London Embassy. The whistleblower fears that once in Sweden he will be extradited to the US, where he is wanted on charges of espionage due to his role in exposing American state secrets and may face the death sentence.