Assange Loses Extradition Appeal: Has Wikileaks Lost Its Way?
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape made by two women against him last year. With the straightforward sentence “The court dismissed the appeal,” two judges at a London High Court said that a previous ruling must be upheld and objected to all four of the arguments Assange’s defense team had raised.
Assange’s lawyers said they will now take 14 days to decide whether to seek a certificate of law of general public importance. Should the court say no, Assange will be on a plane to Sweden within 10 days. Should he be granted the certificate, his lawyers can seek to appeal to the Supreme Court, with a hearing likely in January; if he loses this appeal, Assange would then be extradited to Sweden within 10 days. If he is successful in his appeal, a hearing would occur around May of next year.
Assange’s legal battle has been going on for eleven months. The alleged assaults occurred in August of 2010, when Assange was in Stockholm for an event with Wikileaks supporters. While Assange appeared for an initial interview with Swedish police in 2010, he then fled to London before questioning was completed. Sweden issued an Interpol red notice and a European arrest warrant and required his return; Swedish prosecutors said that Assange was”detained in his absence on probable cause suspected of rape (less severe crime), sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.”
Assange, who has denied the allegations and claims that they are politically motivated, has since been fighting the extradition order. He has termed Sweden the “Saudi Arabia of feminism” and compared himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. and further stated his fear that, should be extradited to Sweden, he could then face the possibility of extradition to the US:
He has told friends that he refused to return to Stockholm to face questioning because he fears that the country is run by a small cabal of interconnected people who are aligned against him. He believes that he is on trial, he has said, for an alleged affront to all Swedish women, and that court proceedings will be tainted by that wider anger.
Mr. Assange’s lawyers have also argued that if he were extradited from Sweden to the United States, he could face the death penalty over the leaking of classified American documents, citing comments by Sarah Palin and other conservative politicians earlier this year.
Crowds of supporters carrying signs saying “Free Assange! Free Manning! End the wars!” greeted Assange at the London court. Ciaron O’Reilly offered definitive support, proclaiming Assange to be “probably the most amazing person in recent history who’s upset so many powerful people in such a short space of time so it’s obviously not a level playing field.”
Assange himself was silent throughout the proceedings and “gave no emotion” after the judges explained their decision. Outside the court, Assange did not answer questions shouted at him by the media and directed people to visit a website set up to support him:
“No doubt there will be many attempts made to try to spin these proceedings as they occured today but they were merely technical. So please go to swedenversusassange.com if you wish to know what is really going on in this case.”
Assange was briefly jailed in December of 2010 and has since been under house arrest at the estate of a wealthy friend at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk; he must wear an electronic tag to monitor his movements.
Wikileaks, and Assange, made constant media headlines last year after the site released a gargantuan trove of classified United States military documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and classified State Department diplomatic cables. Assange shepherded the release of those documents which he “hoped would reshape the very nature of government.” But from December on, he has made headlines more for fighting the extradition order, while Wikileaks seems to have lost something of its force. Last month, Assange announced at a London press conference that Wikileaks would cease to publish documents due to a lack of funds, as credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard and services like PayPal have blockaded donations to the organization. Defections and disputes among members — and between some of them and Assange — have also weakened Wikileaks, with some people forming their own document leaking sites.
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