Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday urged the London High Court to block attempts to extradite him to Sweden for questioning in connection with allegations of sexual assault brought against him by two women.
They were appealing against a magistrate court’s ruling in February that he should be extradited. The district judge Howard Riddle ruled at the time that the extradition would not breach his human rights and there were no grounds to believe that he would not get a get a fair trial in Sweden.
Mr. Assange described the ruling as “rubber-stamping” and the result of a “European arrest warrant system run amok”.
Mr. Assange, who was arrested last year and is on bail, has denied the allegations describing them as a bid to smear him. He says the case against him is politically motivated and linked to the American authorities’ threat to prosecute him for his website’s role in releasing embarrassing information about the U.S. government.
He fears that if extradited to Sweden he would be handed to Americans.
A group of rights activists, waving banners saying “Free Assange”, gathered outside the court to show their support. He declined to speak to journalists before going into the court.
Mr. Assange has changed his legal team replacing attorney Mark Stephens with prominent human rights lawyers Gareth Peirce and Ben Emmerson.
Mr. Emmerson told the court that the Swedish arrest warrant against his client was “flawed” as it failed to provide a “a fair, accurate and proper” description of his alleged sexual misconduct. Arguing that his client was a victim of a “philosophical and judicial mismatch” between English and Swedish law on what constituted a sex crime, he said what happened between his client and the two women was “consensual’’ and could not be criminalised under English law.
The hearing will continue on Wednesday.