Wikileaks' Assange loses UK Supreme Court extradition appeal

Summary:Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited from the U.K. to face charges in Sweden, the U.K. Supreme Court has ruled.

The U.K.'s Supreme Court ruled that Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face prosecutors.

Assange, who founded the Wikileaks website, is accused of offences in Sweden dating back to 2010.

The Supreme Court sat with seven judges out of a possible twelve to show the importance of the case. Often, the higher the number of judges, the greater political, diplomatic and social ramifications of the case.

A majority was reached by five judges to two. The ruling was not unanimous.

Assange had claimed the European arrest warrant was "invalid and unenforceable," while his lawyers claimed the warrant --- issued by Swedish prosecutors --- did not have the necessary authority to do so.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, read to the court: "What do the words judicial authority mean?" The case rests on exactly that point.

"The issue is whether an European arrest warrant ("EAW") issued by a public prosecutor is a valid Part 1 EAW issued by a 'judicial authority' for the purpose and within the meaning of sections 2, and 66 of the Extradition Act 2003.

By a majority the court has concluded that the Swedish public prosecutor was a 'judicial authority' within the meaning of both the framework decision and the Extradition Act."

"The majority has concluded the Swedish prosecutor was a judicial authority. His appeal is accordingly dismissed."

The Guardian notes that had Assange won, Sweden could reissue the extradition warrant through a judge. Also, the Swedish arrest warrant would remain valid in every other E.U. member state bar Britain, effectively banning Assange from the remaining European Union.

The U.K. Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for all civil cases, and the final port of call for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, Assange's lawyer, Dinah Rose QC, questioned the ruling and asked whether the case could be re-opened. The lawyers claimed that one of the points of the case was not even raised. Lord Phillips gave Rose --- amid muddling her name with another member of the court --- two weeks to apply for the case to be reassessed.

Assange has been on conditional bail in the U.K. for more than 530 days. Assange has been required to sign in to a local police station each and every morning of his bail or face custody.

Founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, he was instrumental in publishing vast troves of data --- from private industry and government bodies. His arrest came shortly after the ‘Cablegate’ release. Assange and his legal team believe that the allegations could be “politically motivated”, relating to his work with whistleblowing site, Wikileaks.

Wikileaks had previously posted over 390,000 documents on the Iraq war, followed by 77,000 classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan, known as the ‘Iraq War Logs’ and ‘Afghan War Logs’ respectively.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, Assange may have one route left: the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Assange was not in court to hear the ruling.

Should the final European court fail, Assange will be extradited "as soon as practicable", the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service said earlier this year.

Image credit: CBS News, '60 Minutes'.

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Topics: Legal

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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