WikiLeaks' Assange faces new court hearing

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WikiLeaks' Assange faces new court hearing

WikiLeaks' Assange faces new court hearing
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court in London on Tuesday to find out when he will face a full hearing as he fights extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.

The 39-year-old Australian made a brief appearance at Woolwich Crown Court and spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

Two women claimed Assange sexually assaulted them during a visit to Stockholm in August. He was arrested in London under a European Arrest Warrant last December.

The brains behind the whistle-blowing website says the charges against him are politically motivated and a mere ploy to eventually hand him over to the United States.

There is growing speculation that a grand jury in the US is investigating Assange for espionage.

Assange told reporters outside the court that he was ready to fight the extradition order at the hearing on February 7 and 8.

“Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated. We are stepping up publishing for Cablegate and other materials. They will be shortly appearing with the help of our newspaper partners,” said Assange.

His lawyers, according to documents released on their firm’s website, will argue Sweden’s desire to question him is an insufficient motive for extradition.

The defence will say that as Swedish authorities have not decided whether to prosecute Assange, extraditing him would be illegal.

They also believe there is a “real risk” he could be then extradited on to the US, where he could be detained in Guantanamo Bay or even face the death penalty.

Assange’s legal team suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture.

“If Mr Assange were rendered to the USA without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty,” they wrote in their skeleton legal argument published on Tuesday.

Assange remains free on bail but he must wear an electronic tag and has had to put up at least 240,000 euros as a bond.