Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, loses Sweden extradition appeal

November 2, 2011

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who had been fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual misconduct charges lost his latest appeal on Wednesday, but vowed to continue to fight the charges. As Karla Adam reported:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his battle against extradition Wednesday when Britain’s High Court ruled that he should be sent to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct. 

The judgment was handed down by High Court judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley with Assange in attendance, wearing a dark suit and a Remembrance Day poppy.

In their ruling, the judges said that the European Arrest Warrant that triggered Assange’s arrest and subsequent proceedings by the Swedish authorities were “proportionate.” 

A British judge ordered Assange’s extradition in February, but his legal team appealed, arguing that the arrest warrant was flawed and the sex was consensual and would not be considered a crime in England.

After Wednesday’s ruling, Assange delivered a short statement to the jostling throng of reporters outside of the Royal Courts of Justice. It was a marked contrast to the lengthy, defiant speeches he made after previous hearings,

 “I have not been charged with any crime, in any country. Despite this, the European Arrest Warrant is so restrictive that it prevents U.K. courts from considering the facts of a case, as judges have made clear here today,” Assange said. “We will be considering our next steps in the days ahead.”  

He also urged people to visit swedenversusassange.com, a Web site commissioned by Assange’s defense fund,“if you want to know what’s really going on in this case.”

 Joshua Rozenberg, a legal expert, said that a decision on whether the Supreme Court would hear Assange’s appeal could stretch out for “certainly weeks.”

While Assange is wanted in Sweden for an alleged connection to a sexual misconduct case, it is unclear whether the warrant is for his arrest or merely for questioning. As Erik Larson explained:

“The fact that the term ‘accused of the offense’ is not used does not matter if it is clear” from the arrest warrant “that he was wanted for prosecution and not merely for questioning,” the court said today.

Assange has been staying with his friend Vaughan Smith, who runs a club in London for journalists. Smith said after today’s ruling that Assange has become “part of the family” and that his children think of him as an uncle.

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 who leads the fraud practice at Eversheds LLP in London.

“It is simply enough that the allegations have been made and that these allegations are crimes in both Sweden and the U.K.,” Blundell said. “Quite clearly allegations of sexual assault pass this test.”

The extradition was ordered in February by Judge Howard Riddle in London, prompting lawyers to question the strategy of Assange’s legal team, which labeled Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny as a “radical feminist.” Assange replaced his lawyers in July.

The latest chapter in the Assange legal story comes just over a week after WikiLeaks announced it would be scaling back its operations to focus on fundraising. As Karla Adam reported:

The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks says it will be scaling back operations so that it can focus on raising money.

For months, WikiLeaks has been prevented from receiving donations through VISA, Mastercard and other firms that process financial transactions. Those firms severed their relations with the organization after American officials described its release of classified documents as damaging to U.S. national security interests.

On Monday, founder Julian Assange told reporters in London that WikLeaks would “temporarily suspend all publishing operations in order to direct all our resources to fighting the blockade and raising funds,” adding that the “blockade” had wiped out 95 percent of WikiLeaks’ revenue.

The 40-year-old Australian also said that the organization is “working on other issues” and had other publications pending.

Assange argued that the financial boycott that began nearly 11 months ago was politically motivated and had left WikiLeaks surviving “almost entirely” on cash reserves.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, said that before the boycott began in late 2010, the average monthly donation to WikiLeaks exceeded 100,000 Euros. Since them. Hrafnsson said, monthly contributions have plummeted to between 6,000 and 7,000 Euros.

Assange and his associates have sued Visa and Mastercard over their decision to suspend transactions to WikiLeaks, and Assange said Monday that those lawsuits were still being pursued. But WikiLeaks, he said, would not be “putting all our eggs in the judicial basket.” Instead, it will launch new payment options for supporters, including SMS payments and “checks and cash” sent in the mail.

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