Monday 27 January 2020

Assange wins latest bid to halt extradition

John Aston and  Cathy Gordon in London

A "THANKFUL" Julian Assange has won a last chance in Britain to seek to block his extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations.

Two High Court judges yesterday certified the WikiLeaks founder had raised a question on extradition law "of general public importance", paving the way for him to go to the Supreme Court. The 40-year-old Australian was refused direct permission to appeal after the court described Mr Assange's chances of winning as "extraordinarily slim".

But the judges gave him 14 days to ask the Supreme Court justices themselves to give a final UK ruling.

If the Supreme Court refuses to hear his arguments, or he loses a full appeal, his remaining option will be to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Assange has fought a series of legal battles, arguing that it would be "unfair and unlawful" to order his extradition.

The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping one woman and "sexually molesting and coercing" another, in Stockholm, in August last year.

He denies the allegations and says they are politically motivated. His WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables and other documents, embarrassing several governments and international businesses.

Recently, the High Court upheld a ruling that the computer expert should be extradited to face investigation.

Yesterday, counsel for Mr Assange, Mark Summers, said his client was detained under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by a Swedish public prosecutor.

Seeking permission to appeal against the High Court decision, the court heard Mr Summers wanted to ask the Supreme Court to rule that public prosecutors were not "judicial authorities" entitled to issue warrants under extradition law, and therefore the Assange warrant was invalid.

He told the judges a "disproportionately high" number of EAWs found to have been unjust or oppressive emanated from public prosecutors who "should not, in any circumstances, be permitted to issue EAWs".

During the hearing, the judge told Mr Summers the court's view was that it had "very little doubt that, as a matter of law, the prosecutor was within the scheme" for issuing warrants, and Mr Assange's chances of success in the Supreme Court were "extraordinarily slim".

But the judge announced the court felt "constrained" to certify the case raised at least one question of general public importance. Later, Mr Assange said the issue of extradition safeguards concerned many people in the UK, Europe and other countries who were "struggling for justice".

Irish Independent

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