Final UK court arguments for WikiLeaks founder

By Gregory Katz

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 11 2011 4:40 a.m. MST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, left, holds an umbrella to shelter from rain as he arrives with his lawyer Jennifer Robinson at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. WikiLeaks founder Assange returned to court Friday for final arguments in a high-profile extradition case that has threatened to overshadow the organization's secret-spilling work. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden on sex crimes allegations stemming from a visit he paid to the Scandinavian country last summer. He denies wrongdoing.

Matt Dunham, Associated Press

LONDON — Lawyers fighting over the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have returned to court Friday to make their final arguments in a high-profile case that has threatened to overshadow the group's secret-spilling work.

Assange, famous for publishing a massive cache of confidential U.S. military and diplomatic documents, is wanted for questioning in Sweden on sex crimes allegations stemming from a visit he paid to the Scandinavian country last summer.

The 39-year-old Australian is fighting the extradition and denies the allegations.

Both sides were expected to recap the arguments made earlier in the week at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, with Assange's side arguing that Swedish prosecutors acted improperly and the Swedish government saying it is seeking Assange only after repeatedly failing to pin him down for questioning.

Assange and his supporters say the case against him is riddled with irregularities, with some alleging that it was part of U.S.-led plot to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder or blacken his reputation in retaliation for his spectacular leaks.

Lawyers for Assange's alleged victims and Swedish authorities have all denied the claims. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask defended her country's court system, saying that Assange was accused of a serious crime and should turn himself in for questioning.

As for the conspiracy claims, Ask said they'd been "taken out of thin air."

"We don't have that influence and should not have that influence on the judiciary," she said.

Britain's Judge Howard Riddle may decide to rule on Assange's case immediately, or, more likely, reserve judgment for a later date. Whatever the decision, it's unlikely to end the legal wrangling as both sides can appeal.

Meanwhile, Assange is out on bail — albeit under strict conditions — at a supporter's country mansion in eastern England.

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