The British Supreme Court today has rejected Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's appeal against extradition to Sweden.
The decision paves the way for the Australian born Assange to be transferred to Sweden to face questioning stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct, though the Supreme Court in a rare move, did grant his legal team 14 days to consider a further challenge. Assange has not been charged with a crime in Sweden, and is only wanted for questioning.
Either way, Assange won't be sent to Sweden immediately as his legal team has already initiated an appeal to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, France.
"This is not the final outcome. What we have here is retribution from the U.S." --Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks spokesman
Assange has fought extradition to Sweden for nearly two years during which time he has been under house arrest in England. He has repeatedly denied the accusations surrounding the case in Sweden and suggested the incident was manufactured against him because of his work with Wikileaks. His stated fear is that if brought to Sweden, he will be more vulnerable for extradition to the United States where he could face prosecution for facilitating the release of more than 200,000 diplomatic cables that proved an international embarrassment to the government in Washington.
Assange was not present at the court hearing but WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he saw Washington's hand in the ruling, according to Reuters. "This is not the final outcome. What we have here is retribution from the U.S.," he said.
From the Wikileaks twitter feed this morning:
"It's absurd that the Swedish Authorities have been unable to deal with this case outside of the courtroom." is.gd/gPpy9r
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 30, 2012
Fair Trials has published a document on the treatment Mr Assange is likely to face if his extradition goes ahead. fairtrials.net/publications/a…
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 30, 2012
Demoracy Now! reports on the court's decision and gets reaction from Salon.com blogger and constitutional law attorney Glenn Greenwald:
And Helena Kennedy, a member of Julian Assange's legal team and a prominent British civil liberties attorney, also joined Democracy Now! from London to discuss the court ruling. "The idea of a prosecutor demanding someone is brought by force to their country in order to be questioned -- and [not] a judge or court -- is alarming because we believe in judicial independence," Kennedy says. "[Assange] is concerned [that] once he is on Swedish soil, he becomes much more vulnerable to the intentions of the U.S. to have him extradited to stand trial on much more worrying charges."
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The Guardian reports: High Court denies Assanage extradition appeal
By a majority of five to two, the justices decided that a public prosecutor was "judicial authority" and that therefore his arrest warrant had been lawfully issued.
But lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder submitted an urgent request to the supreme court asking for permission to challenge one of the points made in the judgment.
Assange, who is facing charges of sexual assault and rape, was not in court. There was no legal requirement for him to be present. According to his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, he was stuck in traffic.
The court granted Assange's lawyers 14 days to present their arguments that crucial issues related to Article 31 of the Vienna convention, on which the majority of the justices based their decision, were not raised during the hearing.
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Assange has not been charged with a crime, but Swedish prosecutors want to question him in connection with allegations of "unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct including rape," according to a Supreme Court document.
Assange, who has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010, maintains he is innocent and claims that the allegations are politically motivated. He fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, authorities there could hand him over to the United States, where he then could be prosecuted for his leaking of classified documents.
In a tweet Tuesday, WikiLeaks connected Wednesday's judgment with the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Sweden, which is scheduled a few days later.
"Hiliary Clinton and State Dept team arrive Stockhom June 3-4; 4 days after Assange extradition decision. Fanciful to think no discussion," the tweet read, misspelling both the first name of the cabinet official and of the Swedish capital.
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