WikiLeaks' Assange appeals sex crimes extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media as he leaves Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, in south-east London, on February 24, 2011.</p>

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media as he leaves Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, in south-east London, on February 24, 2011.

Lawyers for Julian Assange have filed an appeal against a U.K. ruling that the WikiLeaks founder be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual molestation.

Officials at London's High Court confirmed the appeal had been lodged, The Associated Press reports. No date has been set for a hearing.

Last week a judge rejected Assange's claims that he would not face a fair trial in Sweden because the prosecutor behind the case is a "radical feminist."

Assange, currently free on bail, was detained in London in December after Swedish authorities issued a European arrest order to question him over sex-crime claims made by two women. Assange, who has not been charged, denies the claims.

The case is not linked Assange's WikiLeaks website, which made headlines last year after making public a huge cache of secret U.S. diplomatic cables and other documents and videos related to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Bradley Manning, a former military analyst accused of handing the cables to WikiLeaks, was facing 22 new charges including one that carried the death penalty.

But prosecutors said Manning, already in custody awaiting possible court martial over the leaks, would face execution if convicted of the capital offense of aiding the enemy."

According to the Guardian newspaper, the intrigue surrounding WikiLeaks has drawn interest from Hollywood, with director Steven Spielberg in the running to film it as a political thriller along the lines of Watergate affair movie “All the President’s Men.”

It said the director’s DreamWorks studio had secured the rights to a book about the whistleblowing website penned by Guardian journalists and Assange collaborators Luke Harding and David Leigh and another by Assange's former colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger described the proposed film as “Woodward and Bernstein meets Stieg Larsson meets Jason Bourne. Plus the odd moment of sheer farce and, in Julian Assange, a compelling character who goes beyond what any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare to invent."

The British media also reported this week claims by the editor of British satirical magazine Private Eye that Assange had made anti-Semitic remarks. Ian Hislop said Assange had accused his Guardian collaborators of being part of a “Jewish conspiracy” against him. Assange has denied the allegation.

-- Barry Neild

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