WikiLeaks’ Assange wraps up appeal arguments

(AFP) – LONDON: Lawyers for WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange wrapped up their arguments today against his extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations, as they pursued a new “quiet” approach to his defence strategy.

Assange has a new legal team which has abandoned the bombastic statements by his previous lawyers warning that he could be deported to the United States and incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.

The 40-year-old Australian himself has remained uncharacteristically silent during the latest proceedings, refusing to comment yesyerday or today to reporters waiting at London’s High Court.

The current two-day hearing is dealing with Assange’s application to overturn a lower court’s rejection in February of defence arguments that he would have an unfair trial in Sweden.

Lawyer Mark Summers closed the defence’s case today by reiterating arguments that the European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden was invalid because he is only wanted for questioning and has not been charged.

“There was from the very outset of this case an easier way to proceed, a more proportionate way to proceed,” he told the court.

He said the European Commission had examined the European Arrest Warrant system and issued guidance that warrants should not be issued in circumstances where there is a “less onerous” alternative.

“The reality of this case is also that no decision to prosecute or charge has been made. The preliminary investigation remains open,” he said.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange over the sex assault claims made by two women — allegations he denies – although he has not been formally charged.

At his previous appearances he gave long press conferences claiming the allegations are politically motivated and linked to his whistleblower website’s releases of huge caches of leaked US government documents.

Assange was arrested in Britain in December. He has been living under strict bail conditions, including wearing an electronic ankle tag and a curfew, at a friend’s mansion in eastern England.