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Assange in British court to fight extradition

Assange in British court

LONDON (AFP) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a
British court on Monday to fight his extradition to Sweden, with leaked details
shedding new light on the rape and molestation accusations he faces.

   The two-day hearing at a high security London court will examine a Swedish
arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who won worldwide notoriety for
his website's release of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables.

   Celebrity backers including socialite Jemima Khan also lead rallies in
London on Monday for Assange, who insisted that sex assault claims made against
the former computer hacker by two Swedish women are politically motivated.

   The judge is expected to defer his decision in the case at Belmarsh
Magistrates' Court in south London. If the ruling goes against Assange he will
be able to appeal the decision all the way to England's supreme court.

   His lawyers argue that if Assange is extradited to Sweden, he runs the risk
of extradition or even illegal rendition to the United States where they say he
could face the death penalty.

   Assange was released on bail a week after his arrest on Dec. 7 and has
since been staying at a friend's country mansion, under strict conditions
including that he obey a curfew, wear an electronic ankle tag and report to
police daily.

   After releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents about
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, WikiLeaks has in recent months been
slowly publishing more than 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables.

   Assange now faces a widening criminal probe in the United States and has
made powerful enemies in Washington.
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