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Assange in British court to fight extradition

world Updated: Feb 06, 2011 08:57 IST

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears in a British court on Sunday to fight his extradition to Sweden, with leaked details shedding new light on the rape and molestation accusations he faces.

The two-day hearing at a high security London court will examine a Swedish arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who won worldwide notoriety for his website's release of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables.

Celebrity backers including socialite Jemima Khan will also lead rallies in London on Monday for Assange, who insists that sex assault claims made against the former computer hacker by two Swedish women are politically motivated.

The judge is expected to defer his decision in the case at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south London. If the ruling goes against Assange he will be able to appeal the decision all the way to England's supreme court.

His lawyers argue that if Assange is extradited to Sweden, he runs the risk of extradition or even illegal rendition to the United States where they say he could face the death penalty.

Assange was released on bail a week after his arrest on December 7 and has since been staying at a friend's country mansion, under strict conditions including that he obey a curfew, wear an electronic ankle tag and report to police daily.

At the last hearing in January, the judge relaxed the conditions for Sunday and Monday, meaning Assange will be allowed to sleep on those nights at the Frontline media club in London while he attends court.

Swedish authorities say they want to question Assange over sex assault claims by the two women.

Swedish police reports filled with graphic details of the allegations leaked onto the Internet last week.