Assange loses extradition battle in Supreme Court

Wikileaks editor Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual coercion, the Supreme Court has ruled

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about allegations he committed sex crimes, the UK Supreme Court has ruled.

Julian Assange

Wikileaks editor Julian Assange (pictured in July 2011) has lost his Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Sweden. Photo credit: acidpolly/Flickr

On Wednesday, six law lords said the Wikileaks editor can be extradited to Sweden under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), as requested by Swedish prosecutors. Assange was not present to hear the London court's ruling.

"The request for Mr Assange's extradition has been lawfully made, and his appeal has been dismissed," said Supreme Court president Lord Phillips as he handed down the court's decision.

The decision was not unanimous, with the law lords being split 5-2. Only six judges were present in court on Wednesday, as Lord Brown retired at Easter.

Assange is wanted in Sweden to face questioning on whether he had non-consensual sex with two Wikileaks supporters in 2010. The prosecutors there, who were represented by the Crown Prosecution Service in the Supreme Court hearing, can now request Assange's extradition.

However, his defence barrister Dinah Rose has been given 14 days to ask to resubmit Assange's case to the Supreme Court. The lawyer is basing the request on the grounds that the judges' majority decision was made in relation to the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, and she did not have the opportunity to make arguments on that point of law during the hearing.

Given this, the extradition warrant for Assange has been put on hold until 13 June. The Australian has been living in Suffolk on conditional bail since December 2010, when he was freed from detention by a High Court judge. 

The Supreme Court appeal hinged on whether Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny is a judicial authority for the purposes of carrying out an EAW. His defence argued that Ny could not be both a prosecutor and a judicial authority.

The Supreme Court found that 'judicial authority' had a wider meaning than just a court or a judge.

Once all hearings in the Supreme Court have been exhausted, Assange's lawyers can apply for an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. If permission is granted, the ECHR then has 14 days to respond. Assange will have a grace period where extradition cannot take place while the European case is heard. 

Assange's backers have argued that the Swedish prosecution has been influenced by the US government, which was embarrassed when Wikileaks released hundreds of thousands of confidential US embassy documents.