Assange wins right to ask for top court hearing

 

LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has secured the right to ask Britain’s supreme court to hear his case, prolonging his stay in Britain.

Swedish authorities want to question the 40-year-old Australian who is fighting extradition to the Scandinavian country over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers in August 2010.

Mr Assange denies wrongdoing.

However, the ruling does not guarantee him a hearing but the court can decide to hear his case or reject his petition. He has 14 days in which to lodge an appeal, meaning his stay in Britain is certain to stretch into 2012.

Asked if he thought the ruling was a victory, Mr Assange said yes. Dressed in a dark grey suit, Assange embraced his lawyer Gareth Peirce after the hearing in London.

The two judges ruled his case raised a question “of general public importance” that should be decided by the court “quickly”.

Mr Assange argues that the European arrest warrant on which he is being held is invalid because it was issued by a prosecutor in Sweden rather than by a court or a judge.

“I am a bit surprised,” said Swedish Prosecution Authority spokeswoman Karin Rosander, reacting to the ruling. She maintained the prosecution authority has the right to issue an arrest warrant.

Mr Assange has since been living at the country home of a wealthy supporter in England since his release on bail last year.

His arrest came shortly after WikiLeaks published thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that included unflattering views of world leaders and candid assessments of security threats. The allegations against him are politically motivated, he says. – (Reuters)