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24 February 2011

Julian Assange loses extradition appeal

WikiLeaks founder has seven days to appeal again, otherwise he will be extradited to Sweden in ten d

By Susannah Butter

Judgment in the Julian Assange case was delivered this morning at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in south London by the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, following a two-and-a-half-day extradition hearing earlier this month.

In Sweden, Assange faces three allegations of sexual assault and one allegation of rape.

The 39-year-old WikiLeaks founder denies the allegations, which were made in August last year, and has been fighting arrest and extradition since his arrest and subsequent bail in December.

He says that the claims are politically motivated because of the work of WikiLeaks.

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Assange’s legal team argued that the European arrest warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden was invalid.

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The lawyers claimed that because Assange has not been charged with any offence, the alleged assaults would not be legitimate extraditable offences and he would not be given a fair trial in Sweden.

The Swedish prosecutor, who has been represented in court by the British Crown Prosecution Service, maintained that, despite the lack of charge, Assange is wanted for prosecution, rather than merely for questioning, which makes the warrant valid.

There is no bail system in Sweden, so Assange would be detained in custody pending possible trial or release.

Assange fears that being sent to Sweden will lead to him being extradited to the United States on charges relating to WikiLeaks’s release of leaked US embassy cables.

If Sweden wanted to do this, it would have to ask the UK’s permission for the onward extradition.