SYDNEY, Dec 7, 2010 (AFP) - Besieged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will fight extradition to Sweden, his lawyer said Tuesday, after British police received a request for him to face charges in Stockholm.
Assange's London-based lawyer Jennifer Robinson said the Australian whistleblower would likely resist being returned to Sweden for fear he could be turned over to the United States where outrage is growing over his revelations.
"(The Swedish prosecutor) said publicly on television last night that all she wants is his side of the story. Now we've offered that on numerous occasions. There is no need for him to return to Sweden to do that," she said.
"I think he will get a fair hearing here in Britain but I think our, his, prospects if he were ever to be returned to the US, which is a real threat, of a fair trial, is, in my view, nigh on impossible," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Assange, whose WikiLeaks has published hundreds of confidential US diplomatic cables sending panic waves through global capitals, is arranging to meet with British police after they received a European arrest warrant for him.
As furious governments around the world slammed WikiLeaks as irresponsible, Swedish authorities want to question him on suspicion of crimes, including sexual assault.
But Robinson refused to discuss further details of Assange's looming meeting with British police, saying only that it was "bizarre" that his legal team had not yet seen a copy of the arrest warrant and had seen no evidence.
Declining to confirm whether Assange was already in Britain as widely reported by media, the lawyer said her client was being "isolated and persecuted" and that death threats had been made on blogs against his son.
"This is obviously part of a broader risk of a threat to Mr Assange himself," she said in the ABC interview from London.
"We take these threats of assassination incredibly seriously and they are obviously illegal and those individuals who are citing violence ought to be considered for prosecution," Robinson said.
Robinson said both she and fellow British-based Assange lawyer Mark Stephens had been followed and had their phone calls interfered with since taking on the case, but declined to say who she thought was surveilling them.
Robinson said any arrest of Assange would not prevent the publication of more of the 250,000 leaked documents that WikiLeaks is holding, as media groups have agreed an "orderly" publishing schedule for the coming months.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard slammed the publication of leaked confidential diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as "grossly irresponsible," saying the information was gathered through an "illegal act."
Pressed on what Australian laws had been broken by WikiLeaks or Assange, Gillard said federal police were investigating and would advise her "about potential criminal conduct of the individual involved".
"The foundation stone of WikiLeaks was an illegal act," Gillard told reporters in Canberra.
"Let's not try top put any glosses on this, information would not be on WikiLeaks had there not been an illegal act undertaken."