THE lawyer of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has spoken of his delight at receiving a CBE.

Mark Stephens, who lives near Wanstead Golf Club, was awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours on Saturday, June 11, for his services to law and the arts.

Mr Stephens, whose high profile clients include Salmamn Rushdie and James Hewitt, has made headlines all year for his defence of Wikileaks website founder, Julian Assange.

The Swedish Government are trying to extradite Mr Assange to face trial on sexual assault charges but he maintains the charges are politically motivated following his website’s release of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.

Mr Stephens, who is 53 and is married with three daughters, said: “I knew that I was being put forward but only learnt that I had been placed on the list when I read about it in the newspaper on Saturday.

“I was absolutely thrilled. The arts and law are the two great passions of my life and to be awarded for services to each is brilliant.

Mr Stephens collects British art and is currently Chairman of the Contemporary Arts Society.

Despite the many high-profile cases involving household names he has been involved in, Mr Stephens said that he remains proudest of is the defence of Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal, who The Hague War Crimes Tribunal tried to compel to give evidence on atrocities during the Yugoslav War of the 1990s.

Mr Stephens said: “In the Phillipines it costs $250 to hire a hitman to kill a journalist, which is less than it costs to hire a lawyer.

“Compelling journalists to give evidence at war crimes trials puts their lives at risk because they become automatic targets in certain situations for people like Gaddafi.

With Mr Assange’s extradition appeal due to start on July 12 Mr Stephens was critical of the European Arrest Warrant system that he said allowed suspects to face charges in countries with radically different, sometimes deeply flawed, legal systems.

“We are confident about the appeal, and just hope that justice will be done,” he said.

“It is important that life for journalists is as safe as possible so that they can gain the information that allows us to make up our minds about world events.”

Mr Stephens, who has lived in Wanstead for 34 years, praised the area: “I grew up in the country and it is familiar. It is like living in a village withing easy reach of central London.”

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