Assange to face full extradition hearing on Feb 7-8
Julian Assange said his WikiLeaks website was preparing to release new classified US cables after a judge said Tuesday that Sweden's attempt to extradite him would be examined in full on February 7-8.
District Judge Nicholas Evans confirmed the date for the full extradition hearing during a 10-minute hearing watched by more than 100 journalists from around the world at the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about allegations made by two women that he sexually assaulted them, but the 39-year-old Australian insists the attempt is politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks' activities.
The judge told Assange he must return to the same court on February 7 when Sweden's extradition request will be examined.
After the hearing, Assange told reporters: "We are happy about today's outcome."
He added: "Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publishing for matters related to 'cablegate' and other materials.
"Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world, big and small newspapers and some human rights organisations."
Assange believes the attempts to extradite him to Sweden are linked to WikiLeaks' publication of tens of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, which has enraged Washington.
The whistleblowing website has also released classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cables were allegedly obtained by renegade US soldier now in custody.
Despite the intense interest in his case, Assange appeared relaxed in court.
Wearing a blue suit and a dark tie in the dock, separated from the court by a glass screen, Assange joked with two female prison officials before the hearing.
The extradition proceedings have been moved to Woolwich because it can accommodate more journalists than the smaller court in central London where Assange appeared previously.
The judge agreed to change Assange's bail conditions for the full hearing, allowing him to stay at the Frontline Club, a media club in London where WikiLeaks operates in Britain, on the nights of February 6 and February 7.
Assange has been living on the country estate of Vaughan Smith, one of the Frontline Club's founders, in eastern England since being released on bail on December 16, nine days after his arrest by British police on a Swedish warrant.
Among the spectators in court were two of his high-profile supporters, socialite Jemima Khan and human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger.
Assange has insisted that the allegations against him have only strengthened his determination to continue publishing documents, but he has acknowledged the case is taking its toll on his finances.
He has agreed to write an autobiography to raise funds for his legal defence, telling the Sunday Times newspaper last month he would receive more than one million pounds (1.2 million euros, 1.5 million dollars) for it.
In a statement issued last week by Canongate Books, who will publish the book in Britain in April, Assange said it would "explain our global struggle to force a new relationship between the people and their governments."
US Vice President Joe Biden last month described Assange as a "hi-tech terrorist" and said the US Justice Department was considering how to take legal action against him.
In a statement issued ahead of the court hearing Tuesday, Assange condemned the violent rhetoric against him by a number of US politicians and media commentators and demanded that those responsible face prosecution.
He drew parallels between the language used against him and WikiLeaks and accusations that similar rhetoric led to the shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona at the weekend.
"No organisation anywhere in the world is a more devoted advocate of free speech than WikiLeaks but when senior politicians and attention-seeking media commentators call for specific individuals or groups of people to be killed, they should be charged with incitement -- to murder," Assange said.
© 2011 AFP