WikiLeaker-in-chief Julian Assange faces the real danger of being executed or languishing in the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay if, as a result of his extradition to Sweden, he ends up in the hands of the Americans, his lawyers argue.
A skeleton summary of Assange's defence was made available following Assange's appearance in a London magistrate's court today. In it, his lawyers argue that it is likely that the US would seek his extradition "and/or illegal rendition" from Sweden.
In the United States "there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantánamo Bay or elsewhere," his lawyers write.
"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. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed."
The document (opens in new tab)was released by Assange's London-based solicitor, Mark Stephens, following a hearing this morning at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court.
The skeleton argument maintains that Swedish prosecutors have ignored established legal processes in seeking Assange's extradition using a European arrest warrant. Assange is wanted for questioning in the country over allegations of sexual impropriety made by two women. He has not been charged with any offence and has offered to answer any questions the prosecutors may have.
"It is a well-established principle of extradition law, pre-dating the introduction of the Extradition Act 2003, that mere suspicion should not found a request for extradition. A person’s extradition should not be sought merely in order for him to be questioned," notes the document.
The Swedish Director of Public Prosecutions, Marianne Ny, is not even authorised to issue the warrant, Assange's lawyers argue.
Had the WikiLeaks founder been charged, he would have been granted full disclosure of all documents relating to the case.
The lawyers also claim that text messages sent by one of the women had not been supplied to Assange's defence team - a situation that significantly hampered their preparations.
"Mr Assange has not been provided with copies of the SMS messages sent by the Complainants in which – in contrast to what is alleged in the EAW – Ms. Wilen says that she was “half asleep” at the time of the sexual intercourse," alleges the document.
Swedish prosecutors are said to have interpreted "half asleep" to mean "asleep"
In addition, Assange's lawyers note that for some reason the allegations of rape were dismissed and then taken up by a second prosecutor, Ms Ny.
They also claim that the extradition attempt is politically motivated. Any trial would be prejudiced, they say, because of Assange's political opinions - and, due a quirk of Swedish law - his gender.
Addressing the prospect of Assange facing the death penalty if he ends up in the USA, the document concludes:
"It is well-known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr. Assange should be executed."
The lawyers cite the example of Mike Huckabee who, as "one of the favourites as Republican candidate for the 2010 Presidential election, has called for those responsible for the leaking of the US Embassy cables to be executed."
Sarah Palin, the former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, is also noted has having said that Assange should be hunted down, comparing him to "al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders".
The document notes: "It is submitted that, based on its record as condemned by the United Nations Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee, Sweden would bow to US pressure and/or rely naively on diplomatic assurances from the USA that Mr Assange would not be mistreated, with the consequence that he would be deported/expelled to the USA, where he would suffer serious ill-treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the ECHR, as well as in breach of Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the ECHR."
Assange will return to court on 7th and 8th February for the full extradition hearing. The case for his extradition is being argued by the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Swedish prosecutor. The full prosecution case is not expected to be released before that date.