Lawyer for WikiLeaks Chief Vows to Fight Extradition, as Net Tightens on Assange

Pressure builds for British authorities to make arrest for alleged rape.

ByABC News
December 2, 2010, 11:13 AM

Dec. 2, 2010— -- Lawyers for Julian Assange say the elusive Australian will fight any attempt to extradite him from Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on allegations that he raped two women there in August.

Pressure is mounting on British authorities to detain Assange, the leader of the Web site WikiLeaks, after Sweden's Supreme Court this morning upheld an arrest order and Interpol called on its 188 member nations to capture and deport him.

WikiLeaks this week published hundreds of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

Assange's British lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told ABC News he will fight any arrest warrant in court, adding that extradition cases such as these can drag on for months.

Robinson said there were irregularities with the Swedish warrant, which prompted Interpol's worldwide "red letter" alert, including that Assange has not been formally charged with a crime.

"The process has been bizarre and extremely irregular," she said. "We think there are serious problems with the warrant, including the fact that they've issued the warrant based on allegations, without any charges being filed."

Swedish police said they would refile the arrest warrant after British authorities asked for more details on the maximum penalties imposed for the alleged crimes.

Assange has denied the rape allegations and previously appealed two lower court rulings that would have allowed investigators to detain him.

Sweden said Wednesday that it had issued a Europe-wide arrest warrant for him

Lawyers for Assange say British police know he is in the U.K. and has been in touch with authorities, even turning over his phone number and address.

He has given several interviews online this week, but has not been seen publicly since a Nov. 5 news conference in Geneva, raising questions about his whereabouts.

"If an international arrest warrant is legitimately issued and is passed to us and if we know where that person is then of course we would arrest them," Scotland Yard said Thursday.

Assange's lawyers have called the investigation a "persecution not a prosecution."

As Assange continues to hideout in Europe, U.S. authorities have called for his prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act.

Experts, however, doubt that the United States will be able to make a strong case, given that Assange only published the cables and did not steal them himself.