Julian Assange's extradition appeal kicks off

The defence team for Julian Assange has begun making arguments in the Wikileaks editor's latest appeal against extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sexual misconduct charges

Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice on the first day of a High Court bid to avoid extradition.

Julian Assange

Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has begun his fight against extradition at the High Court. Photo credit: CBS

On Tuesday, the court began hearing an appeal by Assange against a decision by Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in February to send him to Sweden for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual coercion.

His defence barrister Ben Emerson kicked proceedings off on Tuesday by arguing the actions behind the allegations of sexual misconduct against Assange would not be judged offences under British law.

"Swedish law doesn't recognise the concept of consent in a complainant as a requirement [for rape]," Emerson told the court in London.

The defence grounds for the appeal against Assange's extradition include that Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny is not a prosecuting authority for the purposes of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), and that the use of an EAW is a disproportionate use of the system. Ny issued the EAW last autumn as part of an effort to force Assange to attend questioning in Sweden.

"We have at the outset a conceptual and jurisprudential mismatch," Emerson said.

Defence argument

Much of the opening hours of the defence argument revolved around graphically described alleged sexual encounters between Assange and two Swedish women, as Emerson tried to establish that Assange's actions would not constitute an offence in the UK.

Assange's legal team has laid out their grounds for appeal in a document presented to court. They intend to argue that chief magistrate Howard Riddle, who made the extradition ruling in February, did not take into account that Assange could not receive a fair trial in Sweden following comments against the Wikileaks editor made by Swedish politicians.

"The district judge erred both in law and in logic by not finding a real risk that Mr Assange's prospective trial in Sweden would involve a flagrant denial of justice, thereby rendering his extradition incompatible with Article 6 of the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights]," the lawyers said in the document.

Emerson has taken over from Geoffrey Robertson as Assange's representation in court, while Assange's previous solicitor, Mark Stephens, has been replaced by human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Assange looked nervous as he entered Court 4 in the morning, and declined to make any comment to journalists outside the courtroom.

Speaking to ZDNet UK before the appeal hearing, campaigning journalist and Assange supporter John Pilger said: "I hope justice is done and he is not extradited."

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