Assange fears he could be executed in US if sent to Sweden

 
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H S Rao

London, Feb 7 (PTI) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangetoday expressed fears in a British court that he could betaken against his will to the United States and executed if heis extradited to Sweden.

In legal papers released as Assange appeared before adistrict judge at Woolwich Crown Court in South London, hislawyer Geoffrey Robertson said 39-year-old Assange would betaken to US against his will if extradited to Sweden.

Assange was accused of assaulting two women onseparate occasions during a stay in Sweden last year andraping one of the women.

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

Arguing on behalf of Assange, Robertson said: "Thereis a real risk his client faces further extradition or illegalrendition to the United States if he is sent to Sweden toanswer allegations of sexual assault."

Contesting his extradition to Sweden, Assange''s lawyersaid if the WikiLeaks founder was "rendered to the USA,without assurances that the death penalty would not be carriedout, there is a real risk he could be made subject to thedeath penalty, which is provided for in the Espionage Act."

"It is well known that prominent figures have implied,if not stated outright, that Assange should be executed,"Robertson argued.

Lawyers for Assange have asked the Australiangovernment to request assurances from their Swedishcounterparts that he would never be removed from theircountry.

They are concerned the Swedes could "bow to USpressure" or "naively" rely on diplomatic assurances and allowAssange to be taken across the Atlantic.

In an unusual move, Assange''s legal team released a74-page outline of their arguments against his extradition asa two-day hearing got under way today.

The lawyers focused on the status of Swedishofficials, the validity of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)and claims that his human rights would be breached.

Robertson argued that the Swedish prosecutor MarianneNye is "not eligible" or an appropriate "judicial authority"to issue a EAW for his client, the Swedes are guilty of an"abuse of process" as they have not demonstrated any intentionto charge or prosecute Assange and he cannot be extradited forquestioning alone.

Robertson said the application for a EAW is"disproportionate" as he is willing to co-operate and beinterviewed by phone, email or videolink.

"The arrest warrant paperwork is not valid as itdoes not unequivocally state that he is wanted for prosecutionand has been mistranslated," he argued.

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