WikiLeaks founder 'fears execution'

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Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he faces further extradition or illegal rendition to the US if he is sent to Sweden

Julian Assange fears he could be taken against his will to the United States and executed if he is extradited to Sweden, his legal team has said.

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder have asked the Australian government to request assurances from their Swedish counterparts that he would never be removed from their country.

They are concerned the Swedes could “bow to US pressure” or “naively” rely on diplomatic assurances and allow the 39-year-old to be taken across the Atlantic.

In legal papers released as Assange appeared before a district judge at Woolwich Crown Court, his barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC said he may end up in Guantanamo Bay.

He said there is a “real risk” his client faces further extradition or illegal rendition to the United States if he is sent to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault.

Mr Robertson said: “If Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk he could be made subject to the death penalty, which is provided for in the Espionage Act. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed.”

In an unusual move, Assange’s legal team released a 74-page outline of their arguments against his extradition as a two-day hearing got under way. The largely technical challenges focused on the status of Swedish officials, the validity of the European Arrest Warrant and claims that his human rights would be breached.

Assange, an Australian national, arrived under an extraordinary media spotlight at the high-security Crown Court, which is sitting as Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court. Reporters from around the world laid siege to the courthouse and queued around the block to claim their tickets to the 100 media seats available.

He is supported by a number of high-profile campaigners, including Bianca Jagger, socialite Jemima Khan and veteran left-winger Tony Benn.

Assange faces three charges of sexually assaulting one woman and one charge of raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm in August. He denies committing any offences and his supporters claim the criminal inquiry and extradition request are unfair and politically motivated.

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