WikiLeaks founder’s extradition trial begins in Britain

Monday, February 7, 2011

LONDON - Australian whistle-blower and founder of WikiLeaks website Julian Assange Monday appeared in a British court for the hearing of his extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assaults.

Assange’s lawyers argue that his life will be in danger if he is extradited to Sweden.

According to the Telegraph, Assange’s lawyers will tell the court that he could face “rendition” from there to the US, where there have been calls for his arrest on national security grounds following the publication of thousands of classified US embassy cables by WikiLeaks.

Assange has been accused of assaulting two women on separate occasions during a stay in Sweden last year and raping one of the women.

He was questioned by police and denied the allegations, saying he had had consensual sex with both the women.

An outline of the defence case published by his legal team said: “There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantnamo Bay or elsewhere… there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.”

Assange’s lawyers will argue that extradition to Sweden would breach his human rights because Sweden has, in the past, extradited suspects to Egypt, which has been accused of torture.

Ahead of the hearing, Assange’s lawyers said they would publish the entire defence argument online, if the judge grants permission. A summary of the argument has already been published.

Assange was held in December under a European arrest warrant (EAW) and spent several days in prison before being released on bail.

He has been living under house arrest at a Norfolk manor house owned by a friend. His legal team will argue that the EAW does not apply in cases where someone is only wanted for questioning.

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