Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, but gave him 14 days to seek a review after his lawyer argued that the court’s decision appeared to have been made on points not raised during the appeal and that her client might wish to have the case reopened.
Mr Assange would, meanwhile, remain on bail.
Experts said the case could drag on for months as Mr Assange could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in case the Supreme Court review went against him.
Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer for the two Swedish women who accuse Mr Assange of sexual assault, sounded frustrated with the British judicial process.
“I think they should have resolved this earlier,’’ he said.
Much to the disappointment of his supporters who had gathered outside the court, Mr Assange did not turn up. His lawyer said he had got "stuck in traffic’’.
Earlier, by a majority of five to two, a special seven-member bench of Britain’s highest court rejected Mr Assange’s plea that the Swedish extradition warrant was "invalid and unenforceable’’ as it was issued by a public prosecutor who was not a ``judicial authority’’ under the 2003 Extradition Act.
The court, endorsing a previous High Court verdict, ruled that the warrant was "lawfully made’’ and Mr Assange could be extradited.
Lord Nicholas Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, acknowledging that the case “has not been simple to resolve” said:
"The majority has concluded that the Swedish public prosecutor was a proper judicial authority both within the meaning of the Framework Decision and the Extradition Act. It follows that the request has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed.”
Dinah Rose, QC, representing Mr Assange immediately rose to argue that the majority of the court members appeared to have based their decision ``either principally or solely on the interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a point which was not argued during the appeal and to which we were not given an opportunity to address’’.
"We are therefore currently considering our position whether or it would be necessary, with great regret, to make an application to the court that this matter should be reopened so that we have an opportunity to address this point,’’ she said.
In a statement, the Court said: "The Supreme Court has granted Ms Rose 14 days to make such an application. If she decides to do so, the justices will then decide whether to re-open the appeal and accept further submissions either verbally through a further hearing, or on paper on the matter."
In a sign of the interest the case has aroused, the judgement was delivered in the largest courtroom in order to accommodate the large number of people who turned up for the hearing.
The case has dominated international headlines for nearly two years with Mr. Assange claiming that the allegations against him are politically motivated. He fears that, if he is extradited, Swedish authorities might hand him over to the United States, which has threatened to prosecute him for leaking classified and confidential documents.
Mr. Assange, who was arrested in December 2010, is on bail under conditions that his supporters have likened to house arrest.