Daily Israel Report

Assange Loses Extradition Fight

Britain's top court has ruled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face sex crime charges — US retribution?
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/30/2012, 7:54 PM

Julian Assange
Julian Assange
Reuters

Britain's highest court endorsed the extradition of WikiLeaks' controversial founder Julian Assange to Sweden.

Assange, 40, has spent nearly two years fighting attempts by Oslo to extradite him pursuant to a sex crimes indictment.

The court's 5-2 decision Wednesday ended a messy and high profile legal battle — while prompting Assange's lawyer to argue that the verdict was flawed.

Supreme Court President Nicholas Phillips, speaking for the majority, said Assange's case "has not been simple to resolve," but that the court had concluded that "the request for Mr. Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed."

Assange's lawyer, Dinah Rose, said after the verdict that the decision was based on evidence that was not argued during the appeal. She requested time to study the verdict further in hopes of reopening the case.

Phillips allowed Rose two weeks to research and submit a motion.

Even if the Supreme Court denies a motion to reopen the case, Assange could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. However, legal experts have said such a move would likely fail.

Swedish lawyer Claes Borgstrom, who represents the two women who accuse Assange of sex crimes, expressed relief at the Supreme Court's decision, but said the British judicial system moved too slowly.

"I think they should have resolved this earlier," Borgstrom told The Associated Press.

Assange has became famous for revealing hundreds of thousands of secret US documents, including a video of US forces gunning down a crowd of Iraqi civilians and journalists they had mistaken for insurgents.

Assange says he is motivated by a desire to reveal the conspiratorial nature of government by breaking the veil of what he describes as "information restriction" and simple deception.

In an essay and numerous interviews, describes the modern democratic state as an “authoritarian conspiracy,” a “terrorist organization,” an “unjust system of governance” and a “conspiratorial power network.”

In sum, he believes that government is formed of a network of co-conspirators who communicate secretly to pursue a covert aim, which involves controlling and misleading the public.

“Since unjust systems, by their nature, induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance,” he wrote.

However, Assange came under a cloud of suspicion when two Swedish women accused him of molestation and rape following a visit to the country in 2010.

Assange denies wrongdoing, saying the sex was consensual, but has refused to go to Sweden, claiming he doesn't believe he'll get a fair trial there.

For many of Assange's supporters – and even his confidants – it is an article of faith that his Swedish legal troubles are the product of a vast international conspiracy mounted by vindictive US officials.

Just moments after the verdict, his spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson was telling reporters “this is not the final outcome – what we have here is retribution from the U.S.”

Her sentiments were shared by many of the hundres of protesters who gathered outside the court, who believe the Swdiesh sex crimes case is a plot to have him rendered to the United States and tried as an accessory to Bradley Manning.

Manning, a 24-year-old US soldier, is accused of stealing 250,000 diplomatic cables and passing them to Wikileaks and faces espionage charges in military court.

US officials say they have nothing to do with Assange's extradition problems, even indirectly. Nor is there any indication US officials intend to pursue an indictment against Assange.

An alleged sealed indictment reported by the Stratfor intelligence analysis firm in 2010 failed to materialize, leading many to conclude the indictment does not exist – or may have been a theoretical draft.

Australian diplomats – due to Assange hailing from the country – have closely monitored the US Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks over the past 18 months.

The embassy in Washington previously reported ''a broad range of possible charges are under consideration, including espionage and conspiracy.''

However, Australian foreign minister Bob Carr said Wednesday "We've obviously asked the US, we've talked about it, but we're not aware of any evidence that such a sealed indictment exists."

"We've no advice that the US has an intention to extradite Mr Assange," he added.

Carr's remarks may echo recent remarks by some US officials who believe Assange should be ignored so as not to give him credence – and to deny him the publicity a lengthy, high-profile trial would produce.