Saturday 24 March 2018

Wikileaks founder loses appeal to halt extradition from UK

Erik Larson in London

Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, lost a UK appeal to stop his extradition to Sweden to face rape claims almost 11 months after he was arrested in London.

The UK Court of Appeal said yesterday that the 40-year-old Australian must return to Sweden, where he's sought in an investigation of two sexual- assault cases. He's accused of failing to use a condom in one incident and of having sex with a woman who was sleeping in another.

"This is self-evidently not a case relating to a trivial offence, but to serious sexual offences," the judges said in their ruling. "It is difficult to see how a person could reasonably have believed in consent if the complaint alleges a state of sleep or half-sleep."

The alleged misconduct was revealed as WikiLeaks was being condemned by US authorities for posting thousands of classified communications.

WikiLeaks temporarily suspended its operations last month to raise money during what it called a US "financial blockade". Visa Europe, MasterCard, American Express and eBay's PayPal halted payments to the site, Mr Assange says.

Mr Assange had argued that the case was politically motivated and that the sex, with two WikiLeaks supporters who let him stay in their apartments, was consensual. Mr Assange has been under police surveillance at a friend's mansion in Suffolk since shortly after being detained on December 7, 2010.

After the ruling, Mr Assange said he would consider what "steps" to take and called the ruling "technical" in nature.

The court said Assange had 14 days to seek permission to appeal and it would hold a hearing on the motion in three weeks.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said it would not comment until the ruling gained legal force. The appeals court rejected the argument that he should not be extradited because he had not been charged in Sweden.

The judges also denied his claim that the European arrest warrant could not be used because the alleged behaviour with the condom would not have been illegal in England.

The case shows the ease with which European arrest warrants can be used to gain access to an individual before a country has formally proved its case, said Neill Blundell, a lawyer at Eversheds LLP in London.

Irish Independent

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