Friday 20 April 2018

Video: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden on sex crimes

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

John Aston and Brian Farmer

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange today lost his Supreme Court fight against extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.

Lawyers for Assange asked the UK's highest court to block his removal, arguing that the European arrest warrant issued against him was "invalid and unenforceable".

The Supreme Court judges, who heard the case in February, today announced that they have rejected his challenge.

The court dismissed Assange's appeal by a majority of five to two.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, when announcing the decision, said the point of law which had to be considered had not been simple to resolve.

The Swedish authorities want Assange, 40, to answer accusations of raping one woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

In November 2011, the High Court upheld a ruling by District Judge Howard Riddle - who sat at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, south London, in February 2011 - that the Australian computer expert should be extradited to face investigation.

The High Court declared that it would not be unfair or unlawful to extradite Assange.

During the appeal hearing in February, Assange's QC argued before Lord Phillips, Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Dyson that the Swedish public prosecutor who signed the arrest warrant could not issue a valid document because she lacked impartiality and independence.

Dinah Rose QC said his latest appeal raised the single issue of law as to whether the Swedish public prosecutor constituted a "judicial authority" capable of issuing a valid warrant under the provisions of the 2003 Extradition Act.

It was common ground that if she did not, there was no legal basis for extradition.

Ms Rose suggested it was obvious that a public prosecutor whose function it was to investigate and prosecute an individual "cannot exercise judicial authority in relation to that individual".

As a matter of fundamental legal principle dating back hundreds of years, a judicial authority had to be impartial and independent both of the executive and the parties in a case.

Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, argued that the High Court was plainly correct to accept that the term "judicial authority" had a wide and autonomous meaning, and it was not restricted in the way contended for by Ms Rose.

Since the start of the European arrest warrant (EAW) scheme, it had been the practice of a number of prominent member states to issue EAWs through public prosecutors.

Ms Montgomery argued: "There is no conceivable breach of fundamental rights involved in such a process."

In the majority ruling today - Lady Hale and Lord Mance dissented - the court held that an EAW issued by a public prosecutor is a valid warrant issued by a judicial authority within the meaning of the 2003 Act.

After today's ruling, Ms Rose said an application would be made to reopen the case at the Supreme Court on the basis that the court's majority decision was made on legal points not argued during the appeal.

Assange was given 14 days to consider today's ruling before a final decision on his next step in his legal battle.

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