AFP Reporters, The Local, Sweden – May 30, 2012
Julian Assange lost his last ditch legal effort to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crimes accusations as the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the WikiLeaks founder of a lower court ruling.
According to the court’s 5-2 ruling, the Swedish prosecution authority which issued the warrant for his arrest is indeed a valid judicial authority and thus had the right to issue the warrant for Assange.
“The request for Mr Assange’s extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly is dismissed,” said Supreme Court president Nicholas Phillips.
At issue was whether or not a public prosecutor was included in the definition of “judicial authority” is it used in the legislation governing the extradition of criminal suspects from the UK.
Lord Phillips explained that the English term “judicial authority” stems from a French term which does indeed include courts and judges, as well as public prosecutors.
Following the reading of the ruling, Assange’s lawyers requested two weeks to review the decision before their client is extradited to Sweden.
The Internet whistleblower, who enraged Washington by releasing a flood of state and military secrets on his website, has been fighting deportation since his arrest in London in December 2010 on a European arrest warrant.
Britain’s top court is his final avenue of appeal under UK law, after two lower courts ruled he should be sent to Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two WikiLeaks volunteers.
But Assange, who has been living under tight restrictions on his movement for 540 days, will have the option of a last-ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if he loses.
His case rested on a single point — that the Swedish prosecutor who issued the warrant for his arrest was not a valid judicial authority.
Swedish authorities had argued that if his appeal is granted it could throw the fast-track European arrest warrant system into turmoil, with implications across the continent.
A lower court in Britain initially approved Assange’s extradition to Sweden in February 2011.
An appeal to the High Court was rejected in November, but Assange subsequently won permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which heard two days of complex arguments in February.
Having failed the last hurdle in Britain, Assange has the final option of going to the European Court of Human Rights, which would have to decide within 14 days whether it would take on the case.
“He must certainly make the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but more importantly for him, he must persuade them to issue an interim relief to issue an instruction to the United Kingdom to stop his extradition to Sweden,” Anand Doobay of London law firm Peters & Peters told AFP prior to Wednesday’s ruling.
The legal saga began in Sweden in August 2010 when Assange was accused of raping one woman by having sex with her while she was asleep, and of sexually assaulting another woman.
He insists the sex was consensual and says the charges are politically motivated.