WikiLeaks founder back in court

AP and Reuters, Thursday 24 Feb 2011

UK court agrees Assange extradition to Sweden

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Thursday, (AP).

A British court has agreed to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden where he is accused of sex crimes, dismissing claims such a move would breach his human rights.

Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies, made by two WikiLeaks volunteers during his time in Sweden last August.

One alleges Assange, who has angered the U.S. government by releasing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, sexually molested her by ignoring her request for him to use a condom during sex.

The second woman has said Assange had sex with her while she was asleep and that he was not wearing a condom.

Prosecutors say the second allegation falls into the least severe of three categories of rape in Sweden, carrying a maximum of four years in jail.

Assange’s lawyers have questioned Sweden's judicial process and expressed concern their client risks being handed over to the United States, which is investigating whether Assange's website should be held responsible for leaking classified information.

During three days of legal argument earlier this month, the lawyers argued he would not get a fair trial in Sweden and said Swedish prosecutors had mishandled the case against the 39-year-old Australian computer expert.

They argued that he if he ends up being sent to the United States, he could face execution.

Assange's lawyers also accused Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of creating a "toxic atmosphere" in Sweden and damaging his chances of a fair trial by portraying him as "public enemy number one".

However, Judge Howard Riddle dismissed the arguments and ordered Assange be extradited although his lawyer said they would appeal against the decision.

The Swedish prosecution authority had no immediate comment but would post a statement on its website shortly, a spokeswoman for the office said.

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