WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost an appeal in Britain’s highest court Wednesday morning against extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of the rape and sexual molestation of two women in 2010. However, Dinah Rose, a human rights lawyer and member of the Assange legal team, asked the court for an additional 14 days to make a an application to reopen the case, giving Assange a temporary reprieve until June 13. Assange was not present during the court hearing.
The appeal called into question the authority of the Swedish public prosecutor, Marianne Ny, in signing the extradition request, an act which under English law falls under the jurisdiction of a court, tribunal, judge or magistrate only. The Supreme Court, however, gave E.U. law precedence in a decision that cited the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The decision, which Supreme Court President Nicholas Phillips admitted had “not been simple to resolve,” takes into account the broader French definition of the term “judicial authority,” which includes prosecutors. The court delivered a five-to-two decision in favor of upholding the extradition request, with Lady Brenda Hale and Lord Jonathan Mance dissenting.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge on one of its own rulings. If Assange’s legal team decides to reopen the case, they have until June 13 to apply for review based on pertinent points of law found in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which were not addressed in the initial appeal.
Swedish police have sought extradition of Assange since 2010, when two female WikiLeaks volunteers first accused the site’s founder of sexual misconduct. Assange, who was staying with the women at the time the assaults were allegedly committed, does not deny having sex with the women but claims that in each case, it was consensual. Assange fled to the U.K., where he has been under house arrest since December 2010 following Swedish authorities’ issue of a European arrest warrant. Assange, who denies the allegations, has repeatedly expressed his belief that extradition to Sweden would eventually lead to being transferred back to the U.S., where he faces the prospect of life in a maximum security prison if charged with espionage over the release of classified information.