Australia asks Sweden to give Assange fair hearing

Australia wants Sweden to make sure that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gets a fair hearing if he's extradicted from Britain to face charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden.

The Australian ambassador to Sweden, Paul Stephens, made the appeal in a letter to the Scandinavian country's justice minister as Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, fought extradition in a London court.

"I wish to convey the Australian Government's expectation that, should Mr. Assange be brought into Swedish jurisdiction, his case would proceed in accordance with due process," Stephens wrote in the Feb. 10 letter, which was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Stephens said Swedish authorities must also respect "applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms."

Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden on sex crime allegations stemming from a brief visit here last summer. He denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

His lawyers have sharply criticized Sweden's justice system and say he risks being handed over to the United States, which is investigating whether Assange's secret-spilling website should be held responsible for leaking classified information.

Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask has not responded to the letter, her spokesman Martin Valfridsson said, adding "she's not allowed to comment on individual cases."

Ask told the AP last week that Assange had no reason to worry about not getting a fair hearing and urged him to turn himself in for questioning.

Assange is out on bail in Britain and his next extradition hearing is Thursday.