Assange 1 step away from extradition

May 31, 2012, 06:13 IST | Agencies

WikiLeaks founder has lost his latest attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape, sexual assault allegations; SC grants him a stay of 14 days on the order

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday lost his Supreme Court fight against extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. Lawyers for Assange asked Britain’s highest court to block his removal, arguing that the European arrest warrant issued against him was ‘invalid and unenforceable’. The Supreme Court judges, who heard the case in February, yesterday announced that they have rejected his challenge.

Free Assange! Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange collect outside the court hours before the judges dismissed his appeal. Assange’s lawyer said that they would apply to reopen the case at Supreme Court level. Pic/AFP

The court dismissed his appeal by a majority of five to two. Assange, who was not present for the hearing because his lawyers said he was stuck in traffic, was given 14 days to consider the ruling before a final decision on his next step in his legal battle. His team indicated they would reopen the case at the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, Lord Phillips, president of the court, said the point of law which had to be considered had not been simple to resolve. The Swedish authorities want Assange to answer accusations of raping one woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated. In November 2011, the High Court upheld a ruling in February 2011 that the Australian computer expert should be extradited to face investigation.

The High Court declared that it would not be unfair or unlawful to extradite Assange. Assange’s QC Dina Rose said his latest appeal raised the single issue of law as to whether the Swedish public prosecutor constituted a ‘judicial authority’ capable of issuing a valid warrant under the provisions of the 2003 Extradition Act.

It was common ground that if she did not, there was no legal basis for extradition. Rose suggested it was obvious that a public prosecutor whose function it was to investigate and prosecute an individual ‘cannot exercise judicial authority in relation to that individual’. Afterwards, Rose said an application would be made to reopen the case at the Supreme Court on the basis that the court’s majority decision was made on legal points not argued during the appeal.

The representative for the two women, lawyer Claes Borgström, said that the outcome was expected, but ‘strongly criticised’ the Surpreme Court for the amount of time the extradition order has taken. 

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