WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his legal team have asked the High Court to block his extradition to Sweden, and have argued that the four offences of sexual assault and rape that he faces questioning over were mis-described in his European arrest warrant.
Swedish authorities secured a warrant against Assange in December 2010 based on three incidents of sexual assault and one of rape that were said to have occurred in Stockholm in August. Although Assange has not been charged the authorities there want to extradite him for questioning.
On Tuesday Assange's legal team claimed that the Swedish district judges who requested his extradition had been misled. They told two judges that the European arrest warrant under which he is being held was "flawed" because it did not give "a fair, accurate and proper" description of the alleged offences.
Assange's lawyers did not challenge that his accusers found his actions "disturbing", but said there was no lack of consent:
"Nothing I say should be taken as denigrating the complainant, the genuineness of their feelings of regret, to trivialise their experience or to challenge whether they felt Assange's conduct was disrespectful, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing at the boundaries of what they felt comfortable with," said Ben Emmerson QC, one of Assange's lawyers.
Emmerson added: "Her words may indicate she was not particularly enjoying what was going on. But they certainly do not go anywhere near what we would regard in this country as lack of consent."
Assange's lawyers argued that he had been the victim of a "philosophical and judicial mismatch" between English and Swedish law, because all but one of the allegations would not be a crime in England. They also said that unless a prosecution has begun the arrest warrant is invalid.
Saying nothing as he arrived at court, Assange was cheered by supporters who held signs saying "Free Assange" and "Stop The Wars".
While the appeal hearing is scheduled to conclude Wednesday it is likely that the judgement will be reserved, and so no decision will be revealed for several days or weeks. If the extradition fails Assange's legal team are expected to appeal to the supreme court.
In other developments:
- The online hacking collective Anonymous threatened to attack police computer systems to express their anger at the News International hacking scandal and Assange's continued house arrest.
- A Twitter user thought to be a prominent member of Anonymous also threatened to release a huge cache of documents relating to police corruption and phone hacking, and said the release would "be literally explosive".
Assange lost his first appeal against extradition in February on human rights grounds. Assange then argued that his arrest was "politically motivated", after his WikiLeaks organisation leaked a mass cache of confidential documents, including American diplomatic cables and records of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, online and to several newspapers. The City of Westminster magistrates court, sitting at Belmarsh, found against Assange, arguing that his extradition did not breach his human rights.
Assange has said he fears that if taken to Sweden he will be more easily removed to the United States, where he says there is a "real risk" that he might face the death penalty.
Since February Assange has been under house arrest in Norfolk, where he held a celebrity party at the weekend for friends and supporters.