Assange 'could face execution'
Published 11/01/2011 | 12:02
Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have said they fear he could face execution in the United States if he is extradited to Sweden.
The 39-year-old whistleblower is wanted by the Swedish authorities over claims that he sexually assaulted two women during a visit to Stockholm in August. But his defence team believe there is a "real risk" he could be extradited on to the US.
In a skeleton argument released in the wake of a preparatory legal hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, Assange's lawyers suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could also breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture.
They wrote: "It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR.
"Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty."
Posted on the website of Assange's British solicitor, Mark Stephens, the legal documents attack the case for extradition by the Swedish authorities, claiming it is built on an "improper purpose" because the European Arrest Warrant appears to have been created to only question Assange, not necessarily prosecute him.
Solicitors also questioned whether Gothenburg prosecutor Marianne Ny is able to issue an arrest warrant and said the Swedish authorities should arrange for him to be questioned in Britain.
The skeleton argument focused on the claims of one of the alleged victims, including a text message in which the woman alleged she was "half asleep" at the time of the claimed assault.
Assange's solicitors claimed the Swedish authorities have inflated the allegation to suggest she was "fully asleep". They said it was done "in order to support the making of a rape allegation" adding that: "This would in itself constitute prosecutorial abuse."
The paperwork goes on to attack Swedish prosecutors for failing to disclose other text messages between the two women which "speaks of revenge and of the opportunity to make lots of money".