Julian Assange slams extradition ruling

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange today criticised the European arrest warrant system after a judge ruled he should be extradited to Sweden to face sex offence charges.

The 39-year-old Australian is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm in August.

Speaking outside Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London today following the ruling, he said he had "always known" he would have to appeal against the decision.

The ruling against him came as a result of "a European arrest warrant system run amok", he claimed.

He said: "There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merit of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden and of course we have always known we would appeal."

Launching into a criticism of the system, he said 95% of European arrest warrants were successful and he welcomed a pending review of UK extradition procedures due in June.

This, he hoped, would "deal with some of those abuses of European arrest warrants in law and for abuses relating to other countries such as the United States".

He also reiterated his wish that his own case be used to shed light on "abuses" of the system.

But he denied saying the CIA or the Pentagon were lurking behind the allegations against him.

"I have never stated who or what was behind those initial allegations other than to say they were simply untrue," he said.

He went on to rail against his bail terms, demanding: "Why is it that I, a non-profit free speech activist, am subject to a 360 000 US dollar bail?

"Why is it that I am kept under electronic house arrest when I have not been charged in any country, when I have never been a fugitive?"

His speech was greeted with a lone cry of "justice for Julian" from one of his supporters and a smattering of applause.