Assange Loses Appeal Against Extradition

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Al Jazeera English

Assange Loses Appeal Against Extradition

London court rules WikiLeaks founder should be sent to Sweden to face questioning over sexual assault allegations.


WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves the High Court in London November 2, 2011. Assange should be sent to Sweden from Britain to face questioning over alleged sex crimes, London's High Court ruled on Wednesday, rejecting his appeal against extradition. (REUTERS/Paul Hackett)

A UK court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual crimes.

In a judgement on Wednesday, Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ousely said that Assange, who was in court to hear the verdict, should be sent to Sweden to be questioned over the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year.

Swedish authorities want to quiz the 40-year-old over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two former female volunteers for his WikiLeaks organisation.

In their ruling, the judges said the decision by Swedish authorities to issue a European Arrest Warrant could not "be said to be disproportionate".

"In any event, this is self evidently not a case relating to a trivial offence, but to serious sexual offences", the judges said.

Before the judgement, extradition lawyer Julian Knowles had said Assange would only be able to appeal to Britain's supreme court, the country's highest, if his appeal involved an issue of "real legal significance", as decided by an appeals court.

Knowles said that if Assange is permitted a further appeal, he would likely stay on bail for a couple of months. If not, "he'll be extradited within 10 days", he predicted.

Assange had claimed in his appeal that the alleged offenses would not have been regarded as crimes under English and Welsh law, a stance the judges rejected.

"There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged," the ruling said.

Shadow over WikiLeaks

The case has cast a shadow over Assange and his whistle-blowing website which published a cache of more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables last year and caused a media sensation.

A British judge approved the Swedish request for the computer expert's extradition in February, but Assange appealed against that decision.

His lawyers have argued the Swedish demand is legally flawed and that the sex was consensual.

Assange, who is free under strict bail conditions, has also accused the United States of putting pressure on Britain, Sweden and the media.

Last month, Assange, an Australian citizen, said WikiLeaks would stop publishing secret cables and devote itself instead to fund raising because of a financial blockade on payments to the site by US firms such as Visa and MasterCard.

He said if the blockade was not ended by the turn of the year, WikiLeaks would not be able to continue.

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