Judges at London’s High Court have ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has 14 days to submit a written request for a hearing at Britain’s Supreme Court to avoid being sent back to Sweden as part of an investigation into possible sex charges; however, the High Court also ruled that Assange may not argue that European processes of carrying out inter-country extraditions are flawed. Instead, Assange is being allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis that his case may be of sufficient “general public importance” to merit a hearing. However, High Court judge John Thomas warned that any appeal’s chances were “extraordinarily slim.”
Assange has been accused of rape, molestation, and coercion by two Swedish women stemming from events in August of 2010. Swedish authorities issued a warrante for Assange’s arrest on rape and molestation charges, and Assange was arrested in London a year ago. Assange has consistently claimed the sexual encounters were consensual, and indicated the charges are mainly a pretext to smear Assange’s and Wikileaks public image in the wake of the organizations publications of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Assange’s attorney’s have also argued that extradition to Sweden may just be the first step in a ploy to see the Wikileaks founder transfered to custody in the United States, where the government has been working to build a legal case against Wikileaks. In the U.S., Assange could conceivably face charges under the Espionage Act.
In February 2011, a British judge ruled Assange could be extradited to Sweden to face questions about the charges. Assange has been out on bail in the interim, living on the country estate of a supporter, subject to curfew and electronic monitoring. In the interim, many high profile payment processors have stopped handling contributions to Wikileaks, leaving the organization in financial straits. In the meantime, Wikileaks recently launched The Spy Files, a new site focussing on the global surveillance industry.
Assuming Assange’s legal team gets his appeal filed in time, a panel of three Supreme Court judges will decide whether Assange’s case warrants a hearing. If so, Assange’s legal proceedings in Britain could drag on for several months while the Supreme Court arranges space on its schedule; if not, Assange could be sent to Sweden within ten days.
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