UK court allows delay in extradition of Assange to face Swedish charges

 

THE FOUNDER of Wikileaks Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault charges, the British supreme court has ruled. However, his lawyers have won a delay after arguing that the judges had decided against him on points of law they were not able to argue during earlier hearings in the case.

Mr Assange was not present for the judgment, but a small crowd of supporters protested against the action, claiming he was in danger of facing extradition to the United States and a possible life sentence in jail if he leaves Britain.

Lawyers for the Australian had argued that his extradition should be blocked, and that the European arrest warrant issued against him was “invalid and unenforceable” because it was issued by a prosecutor, not by a judge. By a five to two majority the supreme court judges ruled, however, that the warrant was valid.

The decision to delay extradition to allow Mr Assange’s legal team 14 days to study the ruling, which was partly based on the judges’ interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, is unprecedented. His barrister, Dinah Rose, challenged it immediately, saying it caused her considerable concern.

The application of the Vienna Convention had not been argued in the appeal and the Assange side, which includes solicitor Gareth Peirce, said they had been given no opportunity to address the issues raised. President of the supreme court Lord Phillips gave her two weeks to lodge her case.

The crown prosecution service, which was acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, and Mr Assange’s legal team, agreed that extradition proceedings could not start until June 13th.

The Swedish authorities want to question him on allegations of sexual assault and rape when on a visit to Stockholm in August 2010.

One of Mr Assange’s supporters, journalist John Pilger, asked outside court: “Does anybody believe that any of us would be here if he was not the founder of Wikileaks and if it had not released US diplomatic tapes?”