Rights activists outraged; WikiLeaks founder considering next step
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday lost his appeal in the High Court here against attempts to extradite him to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault brought by two women.
The court upheld a magistrate's ruling in February this year that he be extradited.
The verdict was greeted with outrage by rights activists, who had gathered outside the court in large numbers to demand his freedom. They had fixed to the court's iron railings banners reading: “Free Assange! Free Manning! End the wars.”
Mr. Assange, who denies the allegations and believes that the case is politically motivated, said he was considering his “next steps.” He would remain on bail under the same highly restrictive conditions that were imposed when he was arrested in November last year on a European-wide Swedish warrant.
14 days to appeal
His lawyers indicated that they would approach the Supreme Court on the grounds that the case raised issues of general public importance. They have 14 days to appeal, but would need the High Court's permission.
Mr. Assange fears that if he was extradited, the Swedish authorities might hand him over to Americans who have threatened to prosecute him for leaking classified and confidential documents.
Dressed in a navy blue suit and wearing a Remembrance Day poppy, Mr. Assange sat impassively through the proceedings and looked unruffled as he emerged from the court amid a media scrum. Asked by reporters whether he was disappointed, he appeared to smile at the absurdity of the question.
In a brief statement, he said: “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 for a case. We will be considering our next steps in the days ahead. No doubt, there will be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings as they occurred today but they are merely technical.”
Mr. Assange declined to answer questions and directed the media to go to his website, www.swedenversusassange.com, if they wanted to know what was “truly going on in the case.”
As he walked to a waiting taxi, he was surrounded by hundreds of supporters, who raised slogans, while some took his photographs and tried to shake hands with him.
“Assange is probably the most amazing person in recent history, who's upset so many powerful people in such a short space of time so it's obviously not a level playing field,” said Ciaron O'Reilly, who spent the entire morning outside the court.
Earlier, the judges rejected the plea that the extradition would be “unfair and unlawful.”
Mr. Assange's defence team had argued that the warrant was invalid because it had been issued by a prosecutor, and not a “judicial authority.” The judges said the prosecutor's action was subject to the independent scrutiny of Swedish judges, “which, as judges of another (EU) member-state, we must respect.”
They also dismissed the argument that the descriptions of the offences were not a fair and accurate account of the conduct alleged against Mr. Assange.