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Assange loses final legal bid to block extradition to Sweden

PTI 14 Jun 2012, 20:48:36 IST
London, Jun 14: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost his final bid to block his extradition to Sweden to face sex offence charges after the British Supreme Court today dismissed his appeal to re-open the high-profile case.  

The court also ruled that Assange, 40, should not be extradited until 14 days from today's judgement, that is, until June 28.

The hacker-turned-activist, Assange, an Australian national, has been on conditional bail and is sought to be extradited to Sweden to face allegation of sex offences, which he denies.

His lawyers had argued before the Supreme Court that the European arrest warrant against the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks was “invalid”.

On May 30, when the court ruled that the request for extradition had been lawfully made, Assange's lawyer Dinah Rose, had sought two weeks to decide whether to ask the court to reopen the case, which surprised legal observers.  Assange has been fighting for a year and a half against being sent to Sweden for questioning about accusations of sexual

Two women accused him in August 2010 of sexually assaulting them during a visit to Sweden.  Assange has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010.

He fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, authorities there could hand him over to the United States, where he then could be prosecuted for his leaking thousands of classified diplomatic documents.

The Supreme Court noted that appeal to reopen the case was made on grounds that the majority of the court decided the appeal on a ground that Dinah Rose, Assange's counsel, had not been given a fair opportunity to address.

That ground was that article 31(3)(b) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (“the Convention”) and the principle of public international law expressed in that article rendered admissible State practice as an aid to the interpretation of the Framework Decision.  Rose gave five headings for the submissions that she proposed to make.

The third of these was the relevance of subsequent events, other EU Instruments and the practice of EU States.  The court said that in the course of her submissions, one of the seven judges had put to her that the Convention applied to the interpretation of the Framework Decision.  That Convention, as Rose had recognised, set out rules of customary international law.

The court said: “Had Ms Rose been minded to challenge the applicability of the Convention, or the applicability of State practice as an aid to the construction of the Framework Decision, or the relevance and admissibility of the material relating to State practice, she had the opportunity to do so”.  It added: “She made no such challenge.

Her submissions were to the effect that caution should be exercised when considering the effect of State practice”.  For these reasons, the Court considered that the application to reopen the case was “without merit” and stands dismissed.

The court noted that charged had not yet been brought against Assange, and that the judgement will be corrected to read “offences in respect of which his extradition is sought”.  WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has published some 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables, causing embarrassment to the government and others.  

It has also published hundreds of thousands of classified US documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the organisation has come under financial pressure, leading Assange to announce that WikiLeaks was temporarily stopping publication to “aggressively fund raise” in order to stay afloat.