Assange loses extradition fight

Assange, founder of Wikileaks, faces extradition to Sweden.
Assange, founder of Wikileaks, faces extradition to Sweden.

By Ian Dunt

Julian Assange has lost his battle to stop an extradition to Sweden on charges of rape and sexual molestation.

In a ruling at Belmarsh magistrates' court, chief magistrate Howard Riddle rejected nearly all the arguments made by the Wikileaks' founder's legal team, which included celebrated lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

Mr Assange's team now has a week to appeal, which it is expected to do. If it loses the appeal, he must be extradited within ten days, although the appeal might not take place until the summer.

"To take someone from the UK, from their home language, from their supporters and relatives, and thrust them into a foreign land where they do not speak the language, where documents are not provided in their own language, where they do not understand the legal system or processes, is a very grave matter and deserves far more than a two-page form filled out by a member of the bureaucracy," Mr Assange said outside the court.

Judge Riddle rejected the argument that the crimes Mr Assange is alleged to have committed were not offences in the UK.

Describing one of the most serious charges, he said: "In this country that would amount to rape."

He also rejected the argument that the Swedish prosecutor, Ms Nye, was not a credible individual or that she did not have the authority to request the extradition.

The judge went so far as to accuse Mr Assange's legal representative in Sweden, Björn Hurtig, of trying to deliberately mislead the court and heavily implied that Mr Assange had tried to avoid questioning while still in the Scandinavian country.

Defence arguments that Mr Assange would not receive a fair trial because of the secrecy of Swedish rape trials and the extent of public statements against him were also given short shrift.

The judge argued that while secret courts was "alien to our system" it did not contravene article six of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.

While he criticised briefings to the press from the prosecution and statements from the prime minister of Sweden about Mr Assange, the judge ruled that with four judges hearing the case - three of which are lay judges chosen by political parties - the decision was unlikely to be affected by public pronouncements.


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