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WikiLeaks Lawyers Lay Out Case Against Extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, center, speaks to the media flanked by his lawyers Mark Stephens, left, and Jennifer Robinson, after making an appearance at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Jan 11, 2011

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made public his case against extradition to Sweden in connections with allegations of sexual misconduct and rape. He appeared in a London court for a preliminary hearing on the extradition. Comprehensive arguments will be made in court next month.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emerged from the brief court hearing vowing to fight the extradition request.

"We are happy about today’s outcome, I have asked the court to make available to members of the press, our skeleton argument which we’ve had to produce in very short time over Christmas but which does outline some important issues," he said.

The brief, prepared by Assange’s lawyers, contends among other things that the Swedish prosecutor who requested the European arrest warrant is not the correct authority to ask for extradition says Mark Stephens, the lawyer who accompanied Assange to court.

"The prosecutor has repeatedly said she wants Mr. Assange for questioning and hasn’t made the decision to charge him so in those circumstances, it seems to me that the warrant is improper," Stephens stated.

Stephens, speaking exclusively to VOA, says that the warrant itself is not appropriate because the prosecutor wants Assange only for questioning.

"It’s long established authority that the warrant can only be used to secure somebody who is wanted for charging or to recapture somebody who’s already been sentenced," he said.

The brief alleges the Swedish prosecutors are committing an abuse of process in the way they have preceded in this case. The Swedish prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the skeleton argument or on the case in general. The document also cites two cases where Sweden sent people to countries where they could be tortured. Stephens says they are concerned that Sweden might send Assange to the United States.

"The Swedes have behaved in a way that’s reprehensible in their own country because they were prepared to undertake activities it is now revealed which their own parliament thought were illegal," he said.

Stephens says the Swedes have done nothing to allay those concerns.

"The Swedes haven’t been forthcoming," he said. "With any undertaking that Julian Assange would not be rendered to the United States in the event that he was to turn up in Stockholm."

Assange’s lawyers say his client has repeatedly offered to answer questions via videophone, or at the Swedish Embassy in Britain and that the prosecutor has rebuffed such requests. Assange has called the process politically motivated and vowed his organization will continue to released classified U.S. government documents, including diplomatic cables.