Two judges at the High Court in London have upheld a Swedish request for the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange so he can be questioned over alleged sexual crimes.
The 40-year-old Australian citizen is accused of the rape and sexual assault of two former volunteers for his WikiLeaks organisation.
Mr Assange showed no emotion when the result was read out, and outside the court he said he would appeal the decision.
“We will be considering our next step in the days ahead. The full judgement will be available on swedenversusassange.com,” he said.
“No doubt there’ll be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings. But they are merely technical.”
Mr Assange’s Swedish Lawyer Bjorn Hurtig said ruling “was not entirely unexpected”, but a lawyer for the women making the allegations criticised the court for having taken four months to reach its verdict.
“This decision was exactly what I expected, but I am very critical about the fact that it has taken the High Court such long time, from July,” Claes Borgstrom said.
The case has cast a shadow over Mr Assange and his whistleblowing website, which published a cache of more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables last year, angering the US and causing a media sensation.
A British judge approved the Swedish request for Mr Assange’s extradition earlier this year, but the Australian appealed the decision.
His lawyers had argued the Swedish demand was legally flawed and that the sex was consensual.
“The court dismissed the appeal,” the High Court’s judgement said, before detailing the four counts on which Mr Assange had appealed, which were all dismissed.
Mr Assange had argued that because the European Arrest Warrant under which he was held was issued by a prosecutor, not a court, it was invalid, but the judges ruled it had been subject to independent judicial scrutiny in Sweden.
They also rejected his assertion that the claims made by two women of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and an accusation of rape would not, as they were described, be considered offences under English law.
One woman alleged that Mr Assange had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep, and the judges rejected his lawyers’ contention that consent to sex on condition that a condom was used remained consent when a condom was not used.
There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced.High Court judgement
“There is nothing in the statement from which it could be inferred that he reasonably expected that she would have consented to sex without a condom,” the court judgement said.
“It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did,” it added.
Mr Assange has denied the allegations, claiming they are linked to the release by the diplomatic cables earlier this year.
He also questioned the validity of the arrest warrant because he was not charged in Sweden, only wanted for questioning, but the judges rejected this, saying the case against him was clear.
“There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced,” the judgement said.
The final ground of appeal was that the arrest warrant was disproportionate, given that Mr Assange had offered to be questioned via videolink, but the court also dismissed this.
He was arrested almost 11 months ago and will have two weeks in which to lodge an appeal, which his lawyers have indicated they will do.Mr Assange, who was free under strict bail conditions, has accused the US of putting pressure on Britain, Sweden and the media.
However any appeal to Britain’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, can be done only on a point of law considered to be of general public interest.
Last month Mr Assange said WikiLeaks would stop publishing secret cables and devote itself instead to fundraising because of a financial blockade on payments to the site by US firms such as Visa and MasterCard.
He said if the blockade was not ended by the turn of the year, WikiLeaks would not be able to continue.
Full Video of Verdict http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/assange-judgment.pdf
Full summery of Verdict in PDF form http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/assange-summary.pdf