WikiLeaks founder faces second day in court

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H S Rao

London, Feb 8 (PTI) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangefaced a second day in a British court today fighting a legalbid to extradite him to Sweden on accusations of sexualmisconduct.

The 39-year-old Australian deposed behind closeddoors, with his lawyers arguing that he fears he may be sentto US where he could face death penality.

Assange''s lawyer Geoffrey Robertson had told the courtyesterday that the whistleblower would face a "flagrant denialof justice" if he was extradited over allegations of rape andmolestation.

Swedish prosecuters want to question Assange overallegations of rape and molestation by two women.

Robertson argued that a rape trial in Sweden couldviolate Assange''s human rights. "He would be tried behindclosed doors in violation of justice," he told the court.

"The Swedish courts bar press and public during rapetrials. That is blatantly unfair, not only by Britishstandards but by European standards too," the lawyer said.

The judge is expected to defer his ruling until laterthis month and if the ruling goes against Assange, he willhave the option to go right up to Britain''s Supreme court.

The Australian whistleblower was arrested in London onDecember 7. He was released on bail, a week later and isstaying with his supporter in a country mansion, under strictconditions laid down by the court.

After the first day''s hearing, Assange told newsmenoutside the court that the hearing is finally lifting the lidon allegations he says are false and have blighted hisreputation for months.

"For the past five and a half months, we have been ina condition where a black box has been applied to my life. Onthe outside of that black box has been written the word''rape''.

"That box is now, thanks to an open court process,being opened, and I hope over the next day we will see thatthat box is, in fact, empty and has nothing to do with thewords that are on the outside of it," he said.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he hadhad consensual sexual relations with each of the Swedishwomen.

He has described the sexual abuse accusations as"lies," and implied that the real origins of the case were ina smear campaign by unidentified forces bent on punishing himfor WikiLeaks'' actions in obtaining and posting on theInternet hundreds of thousands of classified US government andmilitary documents.

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