UK court okays Assange extradition to Sweden

WikiLeaks founder to appeal against the verdict

UK court okays Assange extradition to Sweden

Assange, dressed in the blue suit he has worn to previous hearings, sat impassively as the decision was read. He is currently free on bail and the court continued that, subject to conditions which were being discussed.

Judge Howard Riddle, in his ruling, said that allegations brought by two women qualified as extraditable offences and that the warrant seeking Assange’s return to Sweden for questioning was valid.

The verdict marks a turning point in the three-month battle in the British courts and the media against what Assange, his legal team and his celebrity supporters say is a conspiracy to stop WikiLeaks and its campaign to expose government and corporate secrets.

The case has been fought against the backdrop of the group’s highest-profile operation yet—the release of a quarter of a million confidential American diplomatic cables that became the basis of articles by news organisations worldwide, including The New York Times.

WikiLeaks supporters, many of whom contend that the case against Assange is retribution for the cables’ release, have mobbed courthouses over the course of six acrimonious hearings, chanting, “We love you, Julian.” Assange was initially denied bail and briefly jailed after defying a judge’s request to provide an address.

Swedish prosecutors argued that Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, must return to Stockholm to face accusations by two women who say that he sexually abused them last August.

Under Sweden’s strict sexual-crimes laws, he is accused of two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of rape. His accusers, both WikiLeaks volunteers, have said that their sexual encounters with Assange started out as consensual but turned nonconsensual.

Assange has said the accusations are “incredible lies,” and he has referred to Sweden as “the Saudi Arabia of feminism.”

Judge Little said on Thursday that if there have been abuses in Sweden, “the right place for these to be examined and remedied is in the Swedish trial system.”

Assange has also denied accusations by the Swedish authorities that he fled the country in September rather than surrender to the police; he says he left Sweden with permission. And he has denounced the leaks of two Swedish police documents that provided graphic details of the accusations.

Assange, and his lawyers have signalled their intent to take their fight to Britain’s highest courts, and even to the European Court of Human Rights. In adjourning a hearing earlier this month to make his decision, Judge Riddle said with a note of resignation that whatever he decided would “perhaps inevitably be appealed.”

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