Assange hosts lavish 40th birthday bash

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The Independent Online

It is just two days until he is due at the High Court to appeal against attempts to extradite him to Sweden to face rape allegations, but Julian Assange will have other things on his mind today.

The WikiLeaks founder is hosting a lavish 40th birthday party with celebrity guests and supporters ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

Among those invited are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

If Mr Assange is unsuccessful on Tuesday, he faces being taken under police guard to Sweden, to fight allegations of rape and sexual assault.

An enormous marquee was already up yesterday at Ellingham Hall, the 10-bed Norfolk farmhouse where he has been under house arrest for the past seven months. Party invitations included instructions on where to land helicopters and private jets.

The house and its 650-acre estate are owned by Vaughan and Pranvera Smith, directors of the Frontline media club. Mr Smith, who will be at the party, said: "You're only 40 once."

It emerged last week that an £850,000 book deal that Mr Assange had signed for his memoirs had collapsed due to his fears that the US government could use the details against him. WikiLeaks Versus the World: My Story had been due to be published as part of a lucrative deal with Canongate and Alfred A Knopf.