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The extradition of WikiLeakers founder Julian Assange could lead to him being given the death penalty or being sent to Guantanamo detention center, his lawyers claim.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces the threat of the death penalty or detention at Guantanamo Bay if Sweden extradites him, according to his lawyers' documents published Tuesday.
Assange's lawyers argue that if Sweden extradites him to face sexual assault and rape accusations, he would then face the "real risk" of further extradition to the United States. Once he is on American soil, their argument goes, U.S. authorities could detain or execute him.
Assange was arrested in the U.K. on a European warrant issued by Sweden in December. He has not been formally charged with a crime but made a court appearance Tuesday, during which the judge set a Feb. 7 date for his next hearing.
The lawyers did not explain which charges they thought the United States might bring against Assange that could lead to such punishment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"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," according to the lawyers' documents as reported in the Guardian. "It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed."
European law prohibits countries from extraditing suspects to jurisdictions where they might face the death penalty, according to AP.
A former legal adviser to the U.S. State Department called the lawyers' concerns "ridiculous."
"Mr. Assange would not be sent to Guantanamo," John Bellinger told the AP. "He would be prosecuted in U.S. federal court. He would not be treated as an enemy combatant. Those are ridiculous concerns."
Furthermore, Assange could be at greater risk of extradition to the United States if he stays in Britain, which has a fast-track extradition arrangement with the United States, according to British extradition specialist Karen Todner in a statement to the AP.
Meanwhile, Assange vowed Tuesday to continue his site's release of secret documents.
"Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated. We are stepping up our publications for matters relating to Cablegate and other materials," he told reporters. "These will shortly be available through our newspaper partners around the world – big and small newspapers and human rights organizations."
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