Julian Assange loses appeal, now he faces extradition to Sweden


(Sydney Morning Herald)Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has lost his final appeal in a British court and faces extradition to Sweden where he is accused of rape and sexual assault.

But his lawyer Dinah Rose, QC, asked the UK Supreme Court court for two weeks in which to consider the judgement and possibly to request that proceedings be re-opened as she believed part of the judgement was based on a legal question that had not been raised during the hearing and which she had not had a chance to argue on. She said this related to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

The court gave Mr Assange a stay of 14 days on the extradition order so that Ms Rose could make the application. Mr Assange did not appear in court.

In a majority decision of five to two, the judges decided that the European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden asking for Mr Assange’s extradition was legal and should be enforced.

If the court does not allow its proceedings to be re-opened, Mr Assange’s only other legal avenue would be the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. If that court should agree to take his case, he would be allowed to remain in the UK until the hearing.

The Australian-born Mr Assange has been on bail with an electronic security monitor on his leg for more than a year after having been detained in December 2010 on a European Arrest Warrant. In this appeal to the Supreme Court, his legal team had argued that the warrant was not valid because it had been issued by a prosecutor and not a judge.

A prosecutor was not a “judicial authority” as required by law, they said. Lord Justice Phillips said the question had been difficult to resolve but the majority decided there was a presumption that Britain’s Extradition Act was based on a European framework in which “judicial authority” was intended to include prosecutors such as the one who issued Mr Assange’s warrant.

The European Arrest Warrant was introduced after the September 11 attacks in the US to make extradition easier. Critics say it allows people to be moved from one European country to another without any requirement to show evidence.

The sex allegations relate to a visit to Stockholm Mr Assange made in August 2010 when he had encounters with two women. One later complained to police that he had not used a condom, despite her insistence, and another that he had had sex with her while she was asleep. Mr Assange strongly denies the claims and says the encounters were fully consensual.

One of his lawyers had previously argued that he was being persecuted, not prosecuted, because governments had been embarrassed by an avalanche of secret documents released by Wikileaks. But a Swedish lawyer for the two women rejected the claim of politicisation and said the women were victims.

Mr Assange’s legal advisers are believed to fear that if he goes to Sweden he could then be extradited to the United States, where authorities are considering a range of charges against him over Wikileaks including espionage and conspiracy.

American authorities link him to the case of US Army Private Bradley Manning, who faces court martial over 22 alleged offences, including “aiding the enemy” by leaking classified government documents to Wikileaks.

UA prosecutors reportedly believe that Private Manning dealt directly with Mr Assange and “data-mined” secret databases “guided by Wikileaks list of ‘Most Wanted’ leaks