WikiLeaks founder to be extradited to SwedenBy IANS
Thursday, February 24, 2011
LONDON - Julian Assange, Australian whistleblower and founder of WikiLeaks, will be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault, a British court ruled Thursday.
Assange has been fighting extradition since he was arrested and released on bail in December here last year. He has denied the allegations made by two women in August.
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle delivered the judgment during a hearing at Belmarsh magistrates court in London, the Guardian reported.
However, an appeal is expected against the judgment, which would delay his extradition.
During a two-day hearing earlier this month, Assange’s lawyers argued that he would not receive a fair trial in Sweden.
They said the European arrest warrant issued by Sweden was invalid because the Australian national has not been charged with any offence and that the alleged assaults would not be legitimate extraditable offences.
Assange fears that an extradition to Sweden would make it easier for the US government to extradite him to America to face charges relating to the media release by WikiLeaks of leaked US embassy cables.
Though, Sweden would have to take permission from Britain for the onward extradition to the US.
Assange will now be in custody, because there is no system of bail in Sweden, until a possible trial or release.
The Australian ambassador to Sweden, Paul Stephens, wrote to the country’s justice minister last week to insist that, if extradited, any possible case against Assange “would proceed in accordance with due process and the provisions prescribed under Swedish law, as well as applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms”.