WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Monday given permission to take to the Supreme Court his year-long legal battle against extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual misconduct brought by two Swedish women.
The High Court in London certified that the case raised ``a question of general public importance’’ and should be heard by the highest court.
But he still does not have an automatic right to be heard and it remains for the Supreme Court to decide whether to give him actual leave to appeal.
Mr Assange’s legal team has 14 days to submit a written petition to the Supreme Court. His lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said if the court refused to hear it, he would have exhausted all legal avenues in Britain.
However, he can still approach the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Assange, who was present in the court, welcomed the verdict and said that the issues raised by his case could be of assistance to other similar cases. The ``long struggle’’ for justice him and others in a similar situation continued, he declared.
Speaking to reporters, he said: "Today the High Court has decided that an issue that arises from my own case is of general public importance and may be of assistance to other cases and should be heard by the Supreme Court, I think that is the correct decision, and I am thankful. The long struggle for justice for me and others continues."
As he left the court, he was cheered by supporters who raised slogans demanding his freedom.
Monday’s proceedings flowed from a ruling of the High Court on November 2 which upheld a magistrate’s verdict, handed down in February, that he should be extradited. However, it said that he could approach the Supreme Court after seeking its (High Court’s) permission on grounds that the case raised `` a question of law of general public importance".
Mr Assange’s lawyers argued that his extradition would be unlawful because the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) on the basis of which he was arrested was invalid as it had been issued by a prosecutor, and not a "judicial authority".
The Supreme Court, they said, should decide whether he could be extradited on the basis of a warrant issued by a "partisan prosecutor working for the executive" and whether he could be defined as "the accused" even though no decision has been taken to prosecute him.
"Public prosecutors should not, in any circumstances, be permitted to issue EAWs," said Mark Summers, appearing for Mr Assange.