Lawyers for Julian Assange argued in courttoday that a judge had mistalenly approved an invalid extradition order that would send the WikiLeaks founder to Sweden to face questioning over molestation and rape allegations.
During the first day of the appeal, Assange's attorney, Ben Emmerson, argued before two High Court judges that Swedish prosecutors have mischaracterized encounters with two women who Assange had sex with in August 2010.
Assange, 40, of Australia, is appealing a ruling made by District Judge Howard Riddle. In February, the judge approved a European Arrest Warrant filed in December 2010 by Sweden. Prosecutors there want to question Assange about three incidents with two women that occurred in Stockholm and Enköping, Sweden.
The warrant describes the incidents as constituting unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and rape. Assange has not been charged.
Emmerson argued that each of the incidents -- involving women referred to as "AA" and "SW" -- were consensual and would not be offenses under British law. Further, Sweden does not consider consent as a required criminal element, Emmerson argued.
Further, Emmerson contended that District Judge Riddle erred when he approved Assange's extradition in February, agreeing that the conduct described in the European Arrest Warrant were offenses under British law. The descriptions of the incidents in the warrant are incorrect, Emmerson said.
Assange has remained free on bail but is required to wear an electronic monitoring device and check in daily with police. He has changed his legal team since the February hearing and is now represented by Emmerson and , both known human rights lawyers.
Supporters for Assange and WikiLeaks gathered outside the High Court on Tuesday morning. Signs expressed support for the whistle-blowing website and for US Army Private Bradley E. Manning , who is alleged to have supplied WikiLeaks with more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables. He is charged with mishandling and transferring classified information and is awaiting trial in the U.S.
During his first challenge to the Swedish extradition request in February, Assange and his legal team directly connected Swedish prosecutors' pursuit with the website's release of the cables. However, Assange has not been charged in any country for his work with WikiLeaks.
Photo: Espen Moe