Lawyer to ask if US probing WikiLeaks founder

The lawyer who is coordinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's legal defense against extradition to Sweden said Wednesday that he will ask U.S. authorities whether his client also is under investigation there.

Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon said he will send a petition to the U.S. prosecutors as well as other legal institutions "where there theoretically is a case open against him."

Should there be an American investigation, Garzon said he will also ask what charges Assange might face.

Assange is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about sex crimes allegations. He has been sheltering inside Ecuador's Embassy in London - beyond the reach of British police - since June 19.

Assange claims the Swedish sex case is merely the opening gambit in a plot to make him stand trial in the United States over his work with WikiLeaks, which has published large troves of secret U.S. documents.

Sweden and Washington reject those claims.

Ecuador has offered Assange asylum, but the British government has said he will be arrested if he sets foot outside the embassy.

Britain's Foreign Office said Wednesday there had been frequent contact between Ecuador and Britain on the Assange case, and that diplomats were expected to hold more talks in the near future.

Garzon said that if his client could be given guarantees that he would not be extradited to the U.S. once in Sweden then he would be prepared to answer to the Swedish legal system.

Swedish police issued an international arrest warrant for Assange in November 2010 related to the alleged sex crimes.

Garzon is best known for indicting a totalitarian ruler, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, in 1998, and trying to put him on trial in Madrid for crimes against humanity. He also indicted Osama bin Laden in 2003 over the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

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Associated Press writer Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.