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WikiLeaks founder fights extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asked a British judge yesterday to block his extradition to Sweden on sex-crime allegations, arguing he would not get a fair trial and could end up facing execution in the United States.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asked a British judge yesterday to block his extradition to Sweden on sex-crime allegations, arguing he would not get a fair trial and could end up facing execution in the United States.

The 39-year-old Australian computer expert — who infuriated the U.S. government by releasing thousands of secret, diplomatic cables on his website — is wanted in Sweden where two WikiLeaks volunteers allege sexual misconduct from last August.

His lawyers also argued on the first day of a two-day extradition hearing that Assange should not be sent to Sweden because rape cases there are held in private and Assange would be denied a fair trial.

Assange, who has been free on bail under strict conditions since December, said at the end of the day he was confident the hearing would dispel the rape allegations hanging over him.

“For the past five-and-a-half months, we have been in a condition where a black box has been applied to my life. On the outside of that black box has been written the word ‘rape’. That box is now, thanks to an open court process, being opened,” he told reporters massed outside the maximum-security Belmarsh magistrates’ court in southeast London.

Assange’s lawyer Geoffrey Robertson told the court earlier there was a “real risk of flagrant violation of his rights” if he were sent to Sweden because most rape trials there are held behind closed doors.

Death penalty in his future?

In a 74-page court submission, Assange’s lawyers argue there is a risk that, if he was extradited to Sweden, the United States would seek his “extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay.”

If he was sent to the United States, there was a risk he could be “made subject to the death penalty” on charges of espionage for publishing the diplomatic cables.

 
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