By Stefano Ambrogi
LONDON (Reuters) - Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asked a court for a second time on Tuesday to block his extradition from Britain to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct, arguing the case was legally flawed.
The 40-year-old Australian computer expert is in the High Court in London for a two-day hearing after losing an initial challenge to the extradition order in February.
His defense lawyer Ben Emmerson told two judges the European arrest warrant (EAW) on which he was being held was flawed because it failed to provide "a fair, accurate and proper" description of his alleged sexual misconduct in Sweden.
Emmerson also argued Assange, arrested in December and now on bail, was a victim of a "philosophical and judicial mismatch" between English and Swedish law on what constituted sex crimes.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about three allegations of sexual assault and one of rape made by two women, both WikiLeaks volunteers, in Sweden last August. He denies the allegations and has not been formally charged with any offence.
The whistle-blowing website began publishing a cache of more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables which angered the U.S. government and caused a media sensation.
Assange, wearing a dark-blue suit, sat quietly in court, swapping notes with his defense team and aides.
Fellow Australian and left-wing investigative journalist and author, John Pilger, sat close by. He had earlier arrived at court to be greeted by a small group of supporters some carrying banners reading: "Free Assange."
In a case which has drawn huge international interest, two judges are being asked by Assange's legal team to rule that his sexual encounters with both women were consensual and the alleged offences do not merit extradition.
A judge originally dismissed arguments by Assange's defense team that he would not get a fair trial in Sweden and that it would ultimately violate his human rights.
Assange has said he believes the Swedish case is politically motivated.
The U.S. government is examining whether criminal charges can be brought against Assange over the leaks. Assange fears extradition to Sweden could be a stepping-stone to him being taken to the United States.
His lawyers have in the past argued he could be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba or even face the death penalty.
Even if the High Court upholds the extradition request, Assange could take his battle to Britain's Supreme Court, the country's highest, though this can only be done on a point of law considered to be of general public interest.
A Supreme Court ruling would mark the end of the process.
Assange has hired a new legal team to represent him after his previous team, which included prominent British attorney Mark Stephens, was seen as too confrontational.
Replacing Stephens is prominent human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
She has represented accused militants in high-profile cases, including former prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo, and the "Guildford Four," a group of Irish citizens whose conviction in an alleged IRA bomb plot was overturned after they had spent years in prison.
In an emailed statement prior to the appeal hearing her office said "it would be highly unusual" for the High Court to pronounce a decision over the appeal on the same day. "It is normal for a written judgment to be given," it said.
After a brief spell in prison following his arrest by British authorities at Sweden's request, Assange was released on bail and has been living under strict court-imposed restrictions at a country mansion in eastern England.
Despite the bail conditions, which include wearing an electronic ankle tag, reporting to police daily and respecting a curfew, Assange celebrated his 40th birthday with a party there on Sunday.
(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi)