WikiLeak’s Julian Assange appears in court; could end up in Guantanamo Bay
LONDON — The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who released hundreds of thousands of secret war documents, and who is accused of sexual misconduct, could end up in Guantanamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden, his lawyers will argue next month, according to legal papers they released Tuesday.
They will argue that he would be at risk of mistreatment, even execution, meaning if Britain extradites him to Sweden they will be violating his human rights.
Read what his lawyers are saying below. They explain why they believe there’s a chance he could end up there, or even receive the death penalty if he’s extradited.
What do you think? Could Assange end up in Guantanamo Bay, or do you think this is a ploy by his lawyers to create media hype and gain the public’s sympathy?
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A comment to a Mail Online article by “Phil” read: “Execution? Guantanamo Bay? Is that the best they can do? They must really be desperate, in his shoes I’d find another legal time. Gives the rest of us a good laugh though.”
But his lawyers said, “There is a real risk he could be made subject to the death penalty,” Assange lawyers say in documents they released Tuesday, citing British media reports that Republican politicians Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee have called for him to be executed.
The concern is that once he’s in Sweden, he could be extradited to the U.S. and face Guantanamo Bay and even the death penalty for his release of documents.
Assange still seems confident in his pursuit of exposing secret documents. He said after a court hearing Tuesday that he was happy about the outcome and vowed that WikiLeak’s activities would continue. He said, “I would also like to say that our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publishing for matters relating to ‘cablegate’ and toher materials.”
“This will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world,” he added, “big and small newspapers and some human rights organisations.’
Assange’s legal team suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture, according to The Mail Online.
They wrote: ‘It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. 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.’
Today it was confirmed Assange’s lawyers will begin a full two-day extradition hearing on February 7.
CNN reports that the lawyers released a preliminary outline of their planned arguments Tuesday, ahead of an extradition hearing for Assange next month.
He is wanted by prosecutors in Sweden for questioning in connection with sexual misconduct allegations that are unrelated to WikiLeaks.
Assange, who appeared briefly in court Tuesday with his lawyer in London for a procedural hearing, is out on $310,000 bail, has denied the allegations, and is fighting the extradition to Sweden.
Under his current bail conditions, Assange is required by the courts to stay at the mansion of a supporter outside London every night. In addition to staying at the mansion, he must report to police between 2 and 5 p.m. daily and wear an electronic tag to monitor his location.
The judge in the case in London has agreed to a change in Assange’s bail conditions for two days next month so he can get to the main extradition hearing on time on Feb. 7 and 8.
Assange will be allowed to stay at the Frontline Club, a journalist’s club in central London, those two days if the people who put up his bail agree.
His lawyer, Mark Stephens, said he doesn’t see that as a problem.
Assange’s lawyers will also argue that the Swedish prosecutor who issued an arrest warrant for Assange did not have the power to do so.
They will also say that it’s not proper to issue an arrest warrant when a suspect is only wanted for questioning and not for prosecution.
Prosecutor Marianne “Ny went from informal discussions about arranging an interview of Mr. Assange straight to the issuance of” a European arrest warrant without “formally summoning him for an interview or formally requesting his interrogation,” they will argue, CNN reported.
The hearing Tuesday lasted about 10 minutes with Assange confirming his name, date of birth, and current residence.
Assange has supporters including celebrities such as activist Bianca Jagger and socialite Jemima Khan, who were in court Tuesday. There was also a small crown of pro-Assange demonstrastors outside holding signs with slogans that included “This is not 1984.”
Neither Jagger nor Khan spoke to reporters before they went inside.
Over the past eight months Assange’s website, WikiLeaks, has facilitated the leaking of secret information including hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. and diplomatic documents.
Sources: CNN, Mail Online