Assange may stay in UK regardless of court ruling


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The Independent Online

Julian Assange will find out tomorrow if he is to face extradition to Sweden over rape allegations when the High Court hands down its judgement, but could remain in the UK for months amid legal wrangling.

Mr Assange, who described his ten months under house arrest without charge as "perverse", could walk free if Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley find in his favour. If the warrant is upheld, he could be extradited to Sweden inside 14 days.

But the head of the whistleblowing website may remain in Britain into next year. Because of the perceived public importance of the case, lawyers from the losing side could seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Australian, 40, could be detained in the UK under relaxed bail conditions until next year, when the highest court in the land would hear the appeal.

The WikiLeaks founder is challenging a European extradition warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors and has been living under strict bail conditions in Norfolk, since his arrest in London last December.

The warrant, issued after rape and sexual assault accusations made by two Swedish women following his visit to Stockholm in August 2010, was upheld by a judge in February.

Mr Assange's lawyers have claimed that the European warrant under which he was arrested was invalid because he is only wanted for questioning and has not been charged by Swedish authorities.

He has claimed that the Swedish case is politically motivated following WikiLeaks' disclosure of classified US documents including hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.

Swedish prosecutors have not charged Mr Assange with any crime, but have demanded that he returns to Scandinavia to face questions about the case.

Mr Assange denies allegations of raping one woman and sexually molesting and coercing another.

He is represented by the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, who previously acted for the Guildford Four and Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo detainee.

Last week, Assange said WikiLeaks had been forced to suspend publishing classified files after a funding blockade and could have to shut down by the end of the year.