Assange to appear in court over extradition case

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is due to appear in a London court Tuesday in his fight against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes, a media report said.

District Judge Nicholas Evans will oversee a case management hearing at Belmarsh magistrate’s court, sitting at Woolwich crown court in southeast London, as preparations continue for a two-day extradition hearing starting Feb 7, the Guardian reported.

A high court judge released Assange on bail last month after he spent nine days in Wandsworth prison in London.

Assange, who has enraged the US by obtaining a cache of some 250,000 US diplomatic cables and slowly releasing the documents through his whistleblowing website, is living at a manor home in eastern England.

Sweden is seeking extradition of the 39-year-old Australian over allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion, made by two women over 10 days in August.

One of the women alleges that Assange had sex with her without a condom when it was her “express wish” that one should be used. The second woman accuses him of having sex with her Aug 17 without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.

Assange admits having had consensual sex with both women, but denies any criminal wrongdoing.

In interviews with Swiss newspapers Monday, Assange said he might move to Switzerland or Australia, and revealed that WikiLeaks has been losing more than 400,000 pounds a week since releasing a collection of US diplomatic cables that severely embarrassed the US government.

He said he had not made a request for political asylum in Switzerland, and declined to say whether he would.

US officials have stepped up their pressure on WikiLeaks by seeking information from Twitter. A federal court approved a US department of justice subpoena demanding that the site hand over data about users with ties to WikiLeaks.

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