WikiLeaks' Assange faces extradition hearing

Feb 06, 2011 By JILL LAWLESS , Associated Press
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, answers a reporter's question during a joint news conference with Rudolf Elmer, not seen, at the Frontline Club in London, in this Monday Jan. 17, 2011 file photo. Assange returns to a British court Monday Feb. 7 2011, to fight extradition to Sweden, where the WikiLeaks founder is wanted for questioning about alleged sex crimes. The 39-year-old Australian has denied the accusations, which his supporters claim are part of a CIA-led conspiracy against his secret-spilling organization. (AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis, file)

(AP) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his entourage of lawyers, supporters, protesters and journalists are headed back to a London court for a showdown between the secret-spilling computer hacker and Swedish authorities who want him extradited to face sex crimes allegations.

A two-day hearing that begins Monday will decide Assange's legal fate. It will also keep the spotlight away from WikiLeaks' revelations and on its opinion-dividing frontman.

Assange is accused of sexual misconduct by two women he met during a visit to Stockholm last year. At Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, a high-security judicial outpost beside a prison, defense lawyers will argue that he should not be extradited because he has not been charged with a crime, because of flaws in Swedish prosecutors' case - and because a ticket to Sweden could land him in Guantanamo Bay or on U.S. death row.

American officials are trying to build a against WikiLeaks, which has angered Washington by publishing a trove of leaked diplomatic cables and secret U.S. military files. Assange's lawyers claim the Swedish prosecution is linked to the leaks and politically motivated.

Preliminary defense arguments released by Assange's legal team claim "there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere."

The document adds that "there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the " if sent to the United States. Under European law, suspects cannot be extradited to jurisdictions where they may face execution.

Many legal experts say the Guantanamo claims are fanciful, and Sweden strongly denies coming under American pressure.

Nils Rekke, head of the legal department at the Swedish prosecutor's office in Stockholm, said Assange would be protected from transfer to the U.S. by strict European rules.

"If Assange was handed over to Sweden in accordance with the European Arrest Warrant, Sweden cannot do as Sweden likes after that," he said. "If there were any questions of an extradition approach from the U.S., then Sweden would have to get an approval from the United Kingdom."

Assange's lawyers will also battle extradition on the ground that he has not been charged with a crime in Sweden and is only wanted for questioning.

They argue that "it is a well-established principle of extradition law ... that mere suspicion should not found a request for extradition."

Lawyers for Sweden have yet to disclose their legal arguments.

sparked an international uproar last year when it published a secret helicopter video showing a U.S. attack that killed two Reuters journalists in Baghdad. It went on to release hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it later began publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables whose revelations angered and embarrassed the U.S. and its allies.

The furor made Assange, 39, a global celebrity. The nomadic Australian was arrested in London in December after Sweden issued a warrant on rape and molestation accusations.

Released on bail on condition he live - under curfew and electronically tagged - at a supporter's country mansion in eastern England, Assange has managed to conduct multiple media interviews, sign a reported $1.5 million deal for a memoir, and pose for a magazine Christmas photo shoot dressed as Santa Claus.

He drew a large media scrum at a brief court appearance in London last month, where he vowed to step up the leak of a quarter million classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

The full extradition hearing should shed light on the contested events of Assange's trip to Sweden, where WikiLeaks' data are stored on servers at a secure center tunneled into a rocky Stockholm hillside. Two Swedish women say they met Assange when he visited the country and separately had sex with him, initially by consent.

In police documents leaked on the Internet, one of the women told officers she woke up as Assange was having sex with her, but let him continue even though she knew he wasn't wearing a condom. Having sex with a sleeping person can be considered rape in Sweden.

Assange is also accused of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion against the second woman. The leaked documents show she accuses him of deliberately damaging a condom during consensual sex, which he denies.

The picture is more confused by the fact that one Stockholm prosecutor threw out the rape case, before a more senior prosecutor later reinstated it and asked for Assange's extradition from Britain so she could question him.

Assange's lawyers argue that amid the confusion, the European arrest warrant was improperly issued. They allege Assange "has been the victim of a pattern of illegal and/or corrupt behavior by the Swedish prosecuting authorities," who leaked his name to the media, rejected his requests to be interviewed from London, and failed to make the evidence against him available in English.

They also say the accusations against Assange would not constitute a crime in Britain, and complain they have not been given access to text messages and tweets by the two women which allegedly undermine their claims. They say text messages exchanged by the claimants "speak of revenge and of the opportunity to make lots of money."

Whatever happens in court this week, Assange's long legal saga - and his stay in the tranquil Norfolk countryside - is far from over. The hearing is due to end Tuesday, but Judge Howard Riddle is likely to take several weeks to consider his ruling - which can be appealed by either side.

Assange, meanwhile, may be tiring of his nomadic life. On Friday he told a meeting in Melbourne by video link that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard "should be taking active steps to bring me home."

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User comments : 16

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Billand
3.8 / 5 (6) Feb 06, 2011
Obama isn't the person he campaigned as if he would allow a criminal case against Assange to be engineered.

If he actually allows this to happen, and allows Assange to be extradited to the U.S., I'll be convinced that he's just another criminal politician trying to make sure his dirty secrets stay hidden.
M_N
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 06, 2011
Assange illegally released documents that endangered many people. I lost all respect for him when Wikileaks released the names of collaborators in Afghanistan, putting them and their families at great risk of torture and death. It was only after intense pressure that Assange agreed to censor the names, but by then "the horse had bolted".

The man is a villain, not a hero!
gmurphy
4.8 / 5 (10) Feb 06, 2011
Governments should be afraid of their people, not the other way around.
dogbert
1.7 / 5 (11) Feb 06, 2011
They [Assange's lawyers] allege Assange "has been the victim of a pattern of illegal and/or corrupt behavior by the Swedish prosecuting authorities," who leaked his name to the media...


Notice how the star of Wikileaks complains about leaks when they apply to him?

There is nothing about this man which is savory. He is charged with sexual misconduct possibly including rape, he engages in espionage and his 'leaks' endanger the lives of many.
ormondotvos
4 / 5 (8) Feb 06, 2011
The not-yet-made sex charges still reek of coercion, revenge, and trapping, and certainly aren't just cause for extradition. The Swedish prosecurtor's insistence on physical presence is a travesty. Electronic dispositions are a fact of modern life.
soulman
4.4 / 5 (5) Feb 06, 2011
Notice how the star of Wikileaks complains about leaks when they apply to him?

What's your point? Wouldn't you defend yourself if an illegal lynch-mob was conspiring to get you?
There is nothing about this man which is savory.

He's not the most charismatic or likable person - so what?
He is charged with sexual misconduct possibly including rape

Which is almost certainly trumped up.
he engages in espionage

No, he doesn't and didn't, any more than did the newspapers that printed the same material, repeatedly.
his 'leaks' endanger the lives of many.

Also not true. At worst, they've been a source of embarrassment to officials, which will, after a while, blow over (unless they continue to be careless).
Sanescience
5 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2011
Well, like him or not, he clearly was not ready for the blow back he *HAD TO KNOW* was coming.

If your going to mess with the fundamental ability of governments, particularly the USA, to be able to communicate with each other in a candid fashion, you will be a target.
soulman
4.1 / 5 (8) Feb 07, 2011
If your going to mess with the fundamental ability of governments, particularly the USA, to be able to communicate with each other in a candid fashion, you will be a target.

He's not 'messing' with anyone as he isn't the whistleblower. It's the actual whistleblower that's doing the messing and it is he that had to know it would get back at HIM.
xznofile
not rated yet Feb 07, 2011
gypsy's no fun, there's always cops whether you do anything or not.
dogbert
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 07, 2011
soulman ,
Notice how the star of Wikileaks complains about leaks when they apply to him?

What's your point?

Just the hypocrisy.
he engages in espionage

No, he doesn't and didn't ...

Yes, he did and does. We have been there before. Here is the definition of espionage:
"the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company"

He uses spies, therefore his activities fit the definition of espionage.
Bog_Mire
4.4 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2011
...and as has been pointed out numerous times - if we go by the definition you supply and interpret, Dogbert, every media outlet in the world should be hauled before the US courts along with Assange. however they aren't and they won't, because that interpretation is flat out bullshit. legally and logically. Bullshit.
dogbert
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2011
Bog_Mire,

You can point out that a definition is not a definition all you want. Merriam-Webster is the source of the definition and it fits the activities of Assange and Wikileaks.

He is engaging in espionage by definition.

By your reasoning, no one could be involved in espionage because someone else who engaged in espionage was not charged with espionage. People who are not caught (stealing, raping, lying, etc.) do not make the people who are caught innocent.

Bog_Mire
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2011
It also fits the activities of every media organisation in the world. It also fits the definition of every USA administration since day 1.

Regards wikileaks and Assange: No one has been caught doing anything except one poor sap who blew a whistle. No one has been charged with anything except that same poor sap. You are espousing an opinion that is light years from being a fact. Go right ahead. You have the right to be wrong.
Grallen
3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 07, 2011
Sigh...

He's not engaging in espionage because he didn't tell them or hire them to get that information. He is simply a media outlet.

The people who stole the cables looked for a place to publish them. Wikileaks is just by far the most easy/convenient place to publish.

They would have been published somewhere with out Wikileaks. It just wouldn't have been as effective.
nada
3 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2011
Assange will go down in history as a hero.

Its sad that there are people still in this world who want the "security" of a police-state. Its an insult to all who fought for a free democracy.

Evil truth. What a non-sense concept!
tjcoop3
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2011
"Many legal experts say the Guantanamo claims are fanciful, and Sweden strongly denies coming under American pressure."
I don't know about Guantanamo but just ask people who had money in Swedish Bank accounts that are now open to US officials about the Swedish government's resistance to US demands. Push comes to shove and the Swedes will capitulate in Assange's case as well.

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