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UK court defers Assange extradition ruling

London: Britain`s High Court has deferred its decision on an appeal by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The Court heard two days of arguments from Assange`s lawyers and from Swedish prosecutors as the Australian sought to overturn a ruling in February that approved his extradition.

"We will hand down our judgement in the usual way," said Judge John Thomas, one of two judges dealing with the case, referring to a written decision. He did not say when the ruling would be given.

40-year-old Assange was arrested by British police in December after Sweden requested his arrest for questioning over allegations of sexual assault and rape against two women.

He denies the claims.Lawyers for Swedish prosecutors yesterday rejected defence claims that a rape allegation against Assange, made by one of the women, would not count as such under English law.

Clare Montgomery, appearing for the Swedish prosecution, accused Ben Emmerson, one of Assange`s lawyers, of "winding English law back to the 19th century" with his definition of consent.

"They (the alleged victims) are describing circumstances in which they did not freely consent without coercion," Montgomery said.

"They were forced either by physical force or by the sense of being trapped into the position where they had no choice and therefore submitted to Mr Assange`s intentions."

On the allegation that one of the women woke up to find Assange, an Australian, having sex with her without a condom, Montgomery said, "She may later have acquiesced in it… but that didn`t make the initial penetration anything other than an act of rape she had not consented to."

"This woman had never had unprotected sex and it was a very important issue to her," she said.

Montgomery was later challenged by judge Thomas over her arguments that the European arrest warrant used on Assange was proportionate.

Discussing whether it would be sensible for Assange to be interviewed by Swedish authorities in some way before the extradition goes ahead, Thomas said, "If you actually take sensible steps to eliminate problems in the spirit of judicial cooperation, you may find the process simpler."

Another of Assange`s lawyers, Mark Summers, reiterated arguments that the European arrest warrant was invalid because he is only wanted for questioning and has not been charged.

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