Wikileaks founder back in court over extradition

2011-01-11 11:29

London – The founder of secret-spilling website WikiLeaks was back in court today as part of his fight to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he’s wanted on sex crimes allegations.

Julian Assange (39) was driven to London’s high-security Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court today, accompanied by his lawyer, Mark Stephens.

The hearing there was expected to be largely procedural – setting the time for a second, full extradition hearing due next month and to manage other aspects of the case.

The rape and molestation accusations against Assange stem from his encounter with two women during a trip to Sweden taken over the summer, just as his website was garnering global attention with its huge leaks of classified US material.

The Swedish case has divided world opinion.

Assange and his supporters say he is being prosecuted for political reasons, something denied by Swedish authorities and Assange’s alleged victims, who insist it has nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

Assange posed for photographs outside the court, but said nothing before entering the building.

Earlier Tuesday, his organisation released a statement decrying the death threats made against the Australian computer expert, drawing a link between his experience and that of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an Arizona gun massacre that has sparked a nationwide debate over the toxic tone of US political discourse.

WikiLeaks said its staff had been subject to “unprecedented violent rhetoric by US prominent media personalities”, naming former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as one of the many pundits and politicians who have called for Assange to be hunted down like a terrorist.

American officials are still working on building a case against WikiLeaks, which has released hundreds of thousands of secret US intelligence files on Iraq and Afghanistan, as well hundreds of US State Department cables.

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