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Judges Defer Decision on WikiLeaks Founder's Extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves the High Court after two judges deferred a decision over whether to allow Assange to be extradited to Sweden from Britain over allegations of sexual misconduct, in London, July 13, 2011

The founder of the WikiLeaks website Julian Assange was back in court Wednesday, fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces accusations of rape and sexual assault.

Outside the court, media from across the world had assembled alongside Assange’s supporters. But the defendant remained silent.

After a two-day hearing the WikiLeaks founder will have to wait even longer to find out if he will be extradited to Sweden. The two judges opted to defer their decision.

Prosecutors in the Swedish capital Stockholm want to question Assange about allegations of sexual assault and rape that were made by two WikiLeaks volunteers last August.

Assange’s lawyers argue he has not been formally charged so the extradition request is invalid.

A small group of Assange’s supporters had gathered outside the court, and some read out the names of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

They see him as a champion of press freedom and say he should be credited with holding Western governments to account.

Assange founded the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. Last year it published tens of thousands of stolen messages from U.S. embassies, along with confidential files on the war in Afghanistan.

Authorities in the United States are investigating whether Assange has broken any laws.

Assange has said he risks being handed over to the United States and could even face the death penalty if prosecuted.

Assange chose Sweden as a base for WikiLeaks because he believed its laws on freedom of speech would shield the company from legal efforts to shut it down.

It is Sweden’s legal system, however, that is now trying to have him extradited.

The extradition judgement will be handed down at a later unspecified date. Until then, Assange will remain on bail under strict conditions in Britain.