A British judge ruled Thursday that WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden for allegations of sex crimes, reports the Associated Press. Assange’s lawyers will reportedly challenge the ruling in the UK’s High Court. They have seven days to file their appeal.
Judge Howard Riddle seems fairly sure of his ruling, however. In a statement to the court, Riddle validated Swedish prosecutors’ claims that it was reasonable to force Assange to go to Sweden for questioning.
“It does not seem unreasonable to expect and indeed require the presence of Mr. Assange in Sweden for questioning,” Riddle said. The judge also shot down the defense lawyers’ claims that, because prominent politicians in Sweden had made disparaging remarks against Assange, the WikiLeaks founder would not receive a fair trial — one of the keys to their defense case.
“I find it highly unlikely that any comment has been made with intent to interfere with the course of justice,” Riddle said to the court. “Any comments made during the course of [this] case, whether favorable or unfavorable, will make no difference.”
The extradition stems from allegations of sexual molestation and rape made by two women in Sweden. Assange is purported to have had sex without a condom with one of the women. The other woman says he initiated sex while the she was still asleep, thus denying her of consent.
If convicted based on these allegations, Assange could face a prison sentence of several years.
Assange, who was first arrested on December 8 after turning himself in to police in London and later released on £200,000 ($316,000) bail, says that the sex crimes allegations against him are part of a political smear campaign to destroy his reputation.
In addition, Assange maintains that extradition to Sweden is simply a way to have him eventually extradited to the US, where he could face espionage charges for WikiLeaks’ release of a massive cache of US embassy cables on November 28, 2010.
To date, Assange has not been charged with any crimes related to the sexual misconduct allegations.