LONDON – WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange is due to appear in a London court on Tuesday as lawyers draw the battle lines in his fight to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes.
The mainly procedural hearing at the top security Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, due to start at 1000 GMT (3 p.m. EST), is likely to confirm the date for a full extradition hearing which is expected in early February.
The 39-year-old Australian computer expert, who has infuriated Washington by releasing details of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, has protested his innocence over claims of sexual misconduct against two women.
“The hearing on Tuesday is to ensure that the real issues in the case are identified and that preparation of the case is progressing in a timely fashion,” said a spokesman for Britain’s courts service.
It will also decide elements of the legal process, such as which documents the prosecutors and defense lawyers should provide and whether any witnesses should be called up.
British police arrested Assange last month on a European warrant issued by Sweden following allegations made by two WikiLeaks’ volunteers.
After spending nine days in jail, he was released on bail on December 16 after his supporters raised a surety of 200,000 pounds ($312,000).
As part of his bail conditions, Assange must stay at a mansion in eastern England, abide by a curfew, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag. Assange has described the curbs on him as “hi-tech house arrest.”