WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about sexual assault allegations.
Two judges at the High Court in London rejected the 40-year-old Australian’s arguments that his extradition would be unlawful. They ruled the Swedish arrest warrant stands and Mr Assange should face questioning over the allegations made by two former volunteers of his WikiLeaks organisation.
Assange showed no emotion as the result was read out and outside court he said the European arrest warrant under which he has been held was too restrictive.
“It prevents UK courts from considering the facts of a case, as judges have made clear here today,” Assange said. “We will be considering our next step in the days ahead. The full judgement will be available on swedenversusassange.com. No doubt there’ll be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings. But they are merely technical.”
His lawyers are expected to apply to the UK Supreme Court for leave to appeal. They have 14 days to do so, but they will need to prove there is a wider issue of public importance at stake.
Assange’s Swedish Lawyer Bjorn Hurtig said the ruling “was not entirely unexpected”, but a lawyer for the women making the allegations criticised the court for having taken four months to reach its verdict.
“This decision was exactly what I expected, but I am very critical about the fact that it has taken the High Court such long time, from July,” Claes Borgstrom said.
Another of Assange’s legal advisors, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has called on the Australian Government to intervene if the extradition goes through, telling the ABC’s Lateline program that the WikiLeaks founder would not receive a fair trial.
Robertson said that if any appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected, his client “may be patting reindeers [in Sweden] by Christmas”
“In fact, he won’t be at liberty to pat reindeers, and that brings us to a raft of problems that he might face in Sweden and that the Australian Government might have to do something about,” he added.
The WikiLeaks boss has been living under strict bail conditions – including having to wear an electronic ankle tag and observe a strict curfew – at the east England mansion of Vaughan Smith, a supporter and former army captain.
Smith told reporters outside court that Mr Assange’s morale was holding up.
“I find it amazing he’s able to take the blows, and the blows have been considerable. He’s been remarkably robust but then he’s very committed and believes in what he’s doing,” he said.
His mother Christine told the Australian Associated Press news agency on Wednesday that her son was now “even closer to a US extradition or rendition”.
“If the Australian people don’t stand up for Julian, he will go to the US and he will be tortured,” she said.
The case has cast a shadow over Assange and his whistleblowing website, which published a cache of more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables last year, angering the US and causing a media sensation.
A British judge approved the Swedish request for Mr Assange’s extradition earlier this year, but the Australian appealed the decision.
His lawyers had argued the Swedish demand was legally flawed and that the sex was consensual.
“The court dismissed the appeal,” the High Court’s judgement said, before detailing the four counts on which Mr Assange had appealed, which were all dismissed.
Assange had argued that the European arrest warrant under which he was held was invalid because it was issued by a prosecutor, not a court, but the judges ruled it had been subject to independent judicial scrutiny in Sweden.
They also rejected his assertion that the claims made by two women of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and an accusation of rape would not, as they were described, be considered offences under English law.
One woman alleged that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep, and the judges rejected his lawyers’ contention that consent to sex on condition that a condom was used remained consent when a condom was not used.
“There is nothing in the statement from which it could be inferred that he reasonably expected that she would have consented to sex without a condom,” the court judgement said.
“It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did,” it added.
Assange has denied the allegations, claiming they are linked to the release by the diplomatic cables earlier this year.
He also questioned the validity of the arrest warrant because he was not charged in Sweden, only wanted for questioning, but the judges rejected this, saying the case against him was clear.
“There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced,” the judgement said.
The final ground of appeal was that the arrest warrant was disproportionate, given that Mr Assange had offered to be questioned via videolink, but the court also dismissed this.
Assange, who is free under strict bail conditions, has accused the US of putting pressure on Britain, Sweden and the media.
Last month Assange said WikiLeaks would stop publishing secret cables and devote itself instead to fundraising 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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