The London High Court today gave Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, permission to seek a final appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden on grounds of sexual abuse.
A month ago, Assange lost a similar plea to appeal, when the UK judges ruled that the accusations against him had been valid. Had permission not been granted today, Assagne would have been extradited to Sweden to stand trial within days.
Assange’s appeal was granted on a technical point of law. His attorneys argued that his case should be granted review by the Supreme Court because it was of “general public importance.” The judges, Sir John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley, agreed on that point because a prosecutor issued the warrant. Assange’s attorneys argued that public prosecutors are not judicial authorities and are therefore not qualified to serve arrest warrants. The question to be considered, then, is whether the Swedish prosecutor qualified as a judicial authority.
Assange’s attorneys now have 14 days to file their appeal to the Supreme Court. At that point, the Supreme Court will decide whether it wants to hear Assange’s case on those grounds.
The sexual abuse charges were filed by two female Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm, Sweden, who claimed Assange coerced them into having nonconsensual relations. Assange fled the country for London after an initial police interrogation. After he arrived, he learned Swedish law enforcement had placed a European-wide arrest warrant on him. He was arrested in the UK, made bail, and has been living under house arrest in a friend’s rural mansion in Eastern England ever since.
Assange and some of his supporters have suggested that the allegations are a rouse to silence him and his organization after it leaked massive private dossiers about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and private diplomatic cables.