WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, surrounded by his lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson, speaks to the media after appearing at Belmarsh Magistrates court in Woolwich, Jan. 11, 2011. UPI/Hugo Philpott | License Photo
LONDON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, fighting extradition to Sweden to face sex charges, fears he could wind up in U.S. custody on death row, his lawyers said.
The attorneys for the publisher of the whistle-blower Web site said in court documents Tuesday they oppose his extradition to Sweden because once there he could become subject to "illegal rendition" to the United States, The New York Times reported. The Australian is concerned he could wind up imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or even be sentenced to death, the newspaper said.
Assange appeared in a London court briefly under strict security. The hearing was largely procedural and his extradition hearing was scheduled for Feb. 7-8, the Times said.
The court documents, for the first time, name the two WikiLeaks volunteers who accuse Assange of forcing them to have sex with him without a condom in Sweden last August. One of the women maintains she was asleep at the time.
The documents refer to the women only as "Ms. A" and "Ms. W."
The sexual misconduct charges against Assange, which he denies, are part of a firestorm of controversy in which he has found himself since WikiLeaks started releasing some of the 250,000 U.S. State Department cables the Web site possesses. WikiLeaks previously released hundreds of thousands of U.S. military documents dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated, and we are stepping up our publishing for matters relating to Cablegate and other materials," Assange said after his hearing. "Those will shortly be appearing through our newspaper partners throughout the world."
Assange has been free on bail since Dec. 16 following his arrest in Britain on a European arrest warrant issued in Sweden.
"It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the United States will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the U.S.A., where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere," Assange's legal team said in documents posted on WikiLeaks outlining their stance. "Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the U.S.A. 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."