Verdict on extradition of Julian Assange on Feb 24

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H S Rao

London, Feb 11 (PTI) A decision on the extradition ofWikiLeaks'' founder Julian Assange from the UK to Sweden willbe announced by a court here on February 24, even as hislawyers doubted a fair trial in the Scandinavian country.

Belmarsh Magistrate''s Court announced the date at theend of the three-day long hearing today.

The extradition trial of Assange, accused of sexualassault in Sweden, was adjourned today. The Court will deliverits verdict on February 24.

In the extradition case, spotlight turned on Swedishlaw. Assange''s lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, argued thatinflammatory remarks by the Swedish prime minister have madeAssange "public enemy No. 1" in Sweden and that bias againsthim would preclude him from receiving a fair trial. Herequested that the judge refuse to extradite Assange.

Robertson also asked for the trial to be adjourned sothat he could bring in witnesses from Sweden to testify on theeffect of the Swedish prime minister''s comments on the publicopinion of Assange. That request was denied.

According to Robertson, Swedish Prime MinisterFrederik Reinfeldt also "accused Assange of claiming women''srights are worthless" and described his comments as"devastating vilification."

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Reinfeldt lashed outagainst Assange and his defense for arguing that Sweden''sextradition request was politically motivated.

"I can only defend what everyone in Sweden alreadyknows: that we have an independent, non-coerced judiciary,"Reinfeldt said.

His remarks reflected anger among many Swedes overdefence claims that Assange was the victim of a "malicious"feminist prosecutor and would be denied a fair trial in theScandinavian country.

Sweden wants Assange extradited in order to standtrial on sexual assault charges that came to light last year.

Assange denies any wrongdoing in the encounters in question.

Assange''s defence has also argued that the Swedishextradition request was made in order to make it easier toextradite him to the US, where he is wanted for arrest onnational security grounds.

It''s unclear what exactly he would be charged with bythe US, but Assange''s lawyers claim that he could be subjectto the death penalty.

While he has denied the charges, Assange and hisdefense team have skillfully presented the image of an unfairand compromised Swedish judiciary to bolster their caseagainst extradition.

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