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Assange faces fight over extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was scheduled to appear in a London court today seeking to fight his extradition to Sweden in a sex-crimes investigation.

He is also trying to secure bail after being held a week in a British prison cell.

Assange is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer.

Lawyers for Assange say he denies the allegations and will contest the attempt to extradite him for questioning.

He will be represented in court by Geoffrey Robertson, a former appeals judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone who has specialised in freedom of speech cases. Robertson's former clients include author Salman Rushdie.

Supporters were planning to protest Assange's detention outside the court, following a small rally yesterday outside Sweden's embassy in London.

Some of Assange's supporters suspect the extradition request has been motivated by Wiki-Leaks' decision last month to begin publishing its trove of about 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables, something Swedish officials have denied.

At an hour-long court hearing last week, lawyer Gemma Lindfield -- acting for Swedish police -- said Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

She told the court one woman had accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom during an encounter on August 14 in Stockholm.

A second woman has accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

In Sweden, a person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person can be convicted of rape and sentenced to up to six years in prison.

Lawyers for Assange said they will make a new application today to have him freed on bail, and will offer to post a hefty bond with the court.

Several high-profile Britons -- including socialite Jemima Khan and filmmaker Ken Loach -- have offered to contribute £20,000 ($23,600) each.

A decision on whether to extradite Assange is expected to take several weeks.

hnews@herald.ie


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