By Abul Taher
It seems an unremarkable image: a group of friends smiling broadly. But this is the photograph Julian Assange hopes will clear his name.
The face of the woman on the left has been obscured for legal reasons.
For although she is seen beaming, she would later tell police that 48 hours before the picture was taken, the WikiLeaks founder pinned her down in her flat and sexually assaulted her.
Smiles all around: Woman A, left, at a dinner with Julian Assange, center, host Richard Falkvinge, Anna Troberg and Sara Sangberg
If the case ever reaches court – Mr. Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – his lawyers will argue that the photograph undermines the 33-year-old woman’s entire story. And, they claim, there is more.
In the two days after the alleged assault in Sweden, Mr. Assange and Woman A, as she is known, attended a conference and two dinner parties where it is claimed they were practically inseparable.
During one party, Woman A tweeted that she was ‘with the world’s coolest, smartest people!’.
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The photograph was taken on August 15, 2010, at the Glenfiddich restaurant in Stockholm, at a dinner of meatballs and schnapps hosted by Rickard Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party (PP), which campaigns for greater government transparency.
Although by all accounts it was a jolly occasion, there was some serious discussion that at times became ‘passionate and intense’.
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Mr. Falkvinge said the purpose of the dinner, which lasted three hours, was to sign a contract between the PP and WikiLeaks so Mr. Assange’s organisation could use the party’s computer servers.
Also present was the deputy leader of PP, Anna Troberg, and the party’s IT manager, Richard Olson, who brought along his then fiancée, Sara Sandberg.
Since the assault charges were brought, Mr. Falkvinge and Ms Troberg have given detailed statements to the police in support of Mr. Assange. Mr Falkvinge said their testimony included observations about the body language between Mr. Assange and Woman A, who arrived with another woman, called Pietra, who stayed just for the starter.
Mr. Falkvinge sat next to Mr. Assange, with Woman A sitting diagonally opposite them.
‘Most of the night, Julian was speaking with me,’ Mr. Falkvinge said. ‘This was a heads of organization meeting and everybody had a counterpart to talk to. It was a professional dinner.’
For Mr. Falkvinge, one of the things that was striking about it, in view of what he later learned, was that Woman A volunteered to become Mr. Assange’s press secretary during the meal. Mr. Falkvinge has refused to go into details about the way Woman A behaved with Mr. Assange, because he has to give evidence in court if a trial is held.
But he made it clear that he did not think Woman A behaved like a victim or someone who had suffered a traumatic sexual experience only two days earlier.
He said: ‘You can look at objective facts and draw far-reaching conclusions: the fact that we are at the dinner and it was with very passionate people and with good food and drinks; the fact that I and Anna Troberg have left depositions as key defense witnesses in the upcoming trial – that does tell you a lot.
If Assange’s case was to go to court after extradition to Sweden upon leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy, pictured, his lawyers will use the photo in his defense
‘You can say what we saw was more consistent with the defense than the prosecution.’
Due to Woman A’s complaint to the police, as well as that of another alleged victim, Mr. Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden from Britain for the past two years.
He insists he has been set up, and fears that going to Sweden is a ruse for him to be quickly extradited to America, where he could stand trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents on the WikiLeaks website.
His two-year fight against extradition took a bizarre twist when Mr. Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in June seeking asylum.
He was granted asylum by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa last week, igniting a diplomatic rift between Ecuador and Britain.
The Mail on Sunday has also learned that just hours after the alleged attack, Woman A accompanied Mr. Assange to a Social Democratic Party conference.
According to police reports, it was there that Mr. Assange met Woman B, aged 29, who would accuse him of rape.
The two women’s lawyer, Claes Borsgtrom, said yesterday: ‘We will only discuss the dinner at the restaurant and the picture in court.’
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