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WikiLeaks' chief in vital extradition court fight
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeks Supreme Court case to halt extradition to Sweden
By The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) ' WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will ask British judges Monday to let him continue his legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crimes allegations.

If his attempt to win a hearing at Britain's Supreme Court fails, Assange could ask the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in the case, said Gareth Peirce, Assange's lawyer.

To do so, however, the European court would also have to act quickly to delay Assange's extradition, Peirce said. Under law, Assange would have to be extradited within 10 days once his legal case in Britain is concluded.

The hearing Monday is expected to last roughly two hours. It is not clear when a decision will be announced.

Assange arrived in court wearing a dark gray coat, black zip-up jumper and a white open-necked shirt. He chatted briefly with supporters inside court.

The 40-year-old Australian behind the anti-secrecy website has spent almost a year on bail in Britain fighting extradition for questioning over claims of rape and molestation made by two Swedish women. So far, two courts have ruled against him.

For his case to be considered by Britain's Supreme Court, Assange's lawyers must persuade two High Court judges that it raises a question of "general public importance."

Assange has denied any wrongdoing and claims the sex was consensual. He says the case against him is politically motivated.

Some of Assange's supporters gathered outside the court before the hearing began. One banner draped over railings outside the court read "Free Assange. Free Manning," referring to U.S. Army analyst Bradley Manning who is in custody at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas suspected of disclosing secret intelligence to WikiLeaks.

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