Assange could face death penalty in U.S.: lawyers

LONDON Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:47am EST

1 of 13. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London January 11, 2011. Assange appeared in the London court on Tuesday as lawyers draw the battle lines in his fight to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

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LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will argue he should not be extradited from Britain to Sweden over alleged sex crimes because he could end up in the United States facing the death penalty, his lawyers said on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Australian computer expert, who has infuriated Washington by releasing details of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, is wanted for questioning by Sweden over allegations of sexual offences made by two WikiLeaks volunteers.

Following his brief appearance in a London court on Tuesday, lawyers published an outline of the defense he will use at a full extradition hearing next month, in which they said Assange faced possible execution in the United States.

"There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA," said the document on the website of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent.

"Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty."

If Assange ends up in the United States, the document adds, there is "a real risk" he would be subject to ill-treament or even torture, both prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Assange, who has protested his innocence over the sex offence allegations, sat behind a glass screen at London's top security Belmarsh Magistrates' Court during a hearing lasting less than half an hour.

Afterwards, Assange said his organization would press ahead with its release of documents despite his own legal battle. WikiLeaks said in December it planned to release documents that would point to "unethical practices" at a major U.S. bank, widely thought to be Bank of America.

WORK "CONTINUES UNABATED"

"Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials," Assange told reporters outside the court.

"Those will shortly be appearing through our newspaper partners around the world -- big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations," he added.

A U.S. court has ordered microblogging site Twitter to hand over details of the accounts of WikiLeaks and several supporters as part of a criminal investigation into the so-called Cablegate release of hundreds of thousands of confidential diplomatic documents.

British police arrested Assange last month on a European warrant issued by Sweden. After spending nine days in jail, he was released on bail on December 16 after his supporters raised a surety of 200,000 pounds ($312,000).

The full extradition hearing will begin on February 7 and last two days. Even if he loses, Assange can appeal and the legal arguments could stretch on for months.

As part of his bail conditions, Assange was ordered to stay at a mansion in eastern England, abide by a curfew, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag.

However, the conditions were relaxed on Tuesday to allow him to stay at a journalists' club in central London on February 6 and 7 to allow him to get to court on time.

(Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Mark Trevelyan

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Comments (7)
notwenwmc wrote:
This is all about American political revenge. Britain must show the world that the Blair/Brown years are over and we are not going to jump every time American politicians snap their fingers. Sweden are wanting Assange in order that they can appease the Americian politicians by simply posting him onto America,if there was any truth in the rape allegations they would never have allowed him to leave Sweden. Britain must grow up and stand up to these American bullies.

Jan 11, 2011 5:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
Jakub_C wrote:
Oh god! He has got a Crumpler bag!

Jan 11, 2011 6:43am EST  --  Report as abuse
Himself222 wrote:
Apparently if you don’t take a pro Julian Assange point of view, you don’t get posted. I don’t have one. I think he is a traitor to my country. I think he should learn to say “Lethal Injection.”

Jan 11, 2011 12:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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