WikiLeaks founderJulian Assange has filed an appeal to take to the Supreme Court his year-long legal fight against extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault brought by two Swedish women.
The High Court will hold a hearing next month to decide whether he should be allowed to challenge its verdict in Britain's highest court on grounds that the case raises “a question of law of general public importance”.
“The High Court has received an application from Julian Assange for permission to take the case to the Supreme Court,” a spokesman for the Judiciary of England and Wales was reported as saying.
The application is expected to be heard on December 5 but a ruling could be delayed.
Experts said Mr. Assange could approach the Supreme Court directly even if the High Court refused his application but there was no guarantee that his case would be heard.
Earlier this month, the High Court upheld a magistrate's ruling that Mr. Assange should be extradited, rejecting his lawyers' argument that the extradition would be “unfair and unlawful”.
The verdict was greeted with outrage by rights activists who said he was a victim of a “smear campaign” by those who had been embarrassed by WikiLeaks' exposes.
Mr. Assange denies sexual misconduct and believes the case is politically motivated. He fears that, if he is extradited, Swedish authorities might hand him over to Americans who have threatened to prosecute him for leaking classified and confidential documents.
In the High Court, his defence team had argued that a European-wide Swedish warrant on the basis of which he was arrested in November last year was invalid because it had been issued by a prosecutor, and not a “judicial authority”.
The judges, however, held that the action of the prosecutor was subject to the independent scrutiny of Swedish judges, “which, as judges of another [EU] member state, we must respect”.
Mr. Assange, who is on bail under conditions that have been likened to house arrest, says he is being treated like a criminal though he has not been charged with any crime.
In a statement after the High Court judgment on November 2, 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.”