Julian Assange's lawyers are worried that if their client is extradited to Sweden, he will be illegally sent to the United States, where "there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay."
Lawyers for Mr. Assange release the "skeleton" outline of their argument today after the 39-year-old WikLeaks founder made a 10-minute appearance at a London court. He will appear in court again on Feb. 7 and 8 for an extradition hearing. Swedish prosecutors want to question Mr. Assange about sexual assault allegations relating to two incidents in Stockholm in mid-August.
In addition to the concerns about illegal rendition to the U.S., Mr. Assange's lawyers, Finers Stephens Innocent LLP, allege that their client had offered to answers questions in the U.K. but was "repeatedly rebuffed" by Swedish authorities. They say that Mr. Assange hasn't seen all the evidence against him, and that by naming him as the subject in a rape inquiry, Swedish prosecutors ensured "his vilification throughout the world."
The brief also alleges that revenge and greed are motives in the case, saying that Mr. Assange's Swedish lawyer has seen text messages in which the two women accusing him "speak of revenge and of the opportunity to make lots of money and of going to the Swedish national newspaper, Expressen."
Mr. Assange spoke only to give his name, age and address today at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, the highest-security court in London, usually the site for terrorism hearings. HMP Belmarsh, the adjacent prison, is home to many of Britain's highest-profile terrorists.
"We are happy about today's outcome," Mr. Assange said outside the court, flanked by members of his legal team. There would be more leaks from his organization soon, he said: "We are stepping up publishing for Cablegate and other materials. They will shortly be appearing with the help of our newspaper partners."
Mr. Assange's hearing was attended by celebrity supporters, including socialite Jemima Khan and human-rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, who said on her way into the court: "We support human rights and the due process of law." A handful of WikLeaks fans, hidden behind masks and scarves, cheered Mr. Assange on. "This should have ended a long time ago so that WikLeaks can go and concentrate on its work," said one, who would give her name only as Claudia.
The young supporters share Mr. Assange's belief that the U.S. government is preparing a case against him, over the leak of 250,000 classified cables published by WikLeaks and its partner newspapers. Last week it emerged that a court order was served against Twitter requiring the micro-blogging service to reveal details of the accounts of Mr. Assange and others involved with WikLeaks.
Since being freed on bail on Dec. 16, Mr. Assange has been living under house arrest at the country estate of Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline, a journalists' club in London. He received a £1-million ($1.5-million) advance for his memoirs, which is set to be published in April.