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Lawyers fear Assange faces death penalty in US

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or face the death penalty if he's extradited to the US, his attorneys argued in court papers released Tuesday.

The document, which outlines the defense Assange's legal team intends to use next month at a hearing over Sweden's request for extradition, says Assange could be subject to other types of maltreatment that would violate the European Convention on Human Rights. They include the possibility of torture or, they hinted, “extraordinary rendition,” in which the CIA forcibly transfers suspected terrorists to countries where prohibitions against torture aren't in place.

“There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR,” the document stated. “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.”

The document went on to cite references from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who have both called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist.

Assange, 39, remains confined to a country mansion outside London on about $410,000 surety while a London court decides whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden. Prosecutors in that country are investigating claims by two women that Assange sexually molested them while visiting Sweden in August. Assange was previously cleared to leave the country after prosecutors there closed their investigation. When it was reopened, prosecutors sought Assange's extradition, which the WikiLeaks' founder has opposed.

Assange hasn't been charged with any crime.

In the defense preview, Assange's attorneys took issue with the extradition application of Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Requests can be made only after a suspect has been charged with a crime that is subject to extradition, the attorneys argued. What's more, prosecutors must exhaust all “normal procedures” for interrogating Assange, which has yet to happen, they argued.

“In short, Ms. Ny went from informal discussions about arranging an interview of Mr. Assange straight to the issuance of [a European arrest warrant], without taking the reasonable and proportionate, intermediary step of formally summoning him for an interview or formally requesting his interrogation,” the wrote. “The proper, proportionate and legal means of requesting a person’s questioning in the UK in these circumstances is through Mutual Legal Assistance.”

The defense preview was issued a few hours after Assange appeared at a brief court hearing attended by supporters including Bianca Jagger and heiress/socialite/humanitarian Jemima Goldsmith. ®

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