Julian Assange's fight to evade extradition to Sweden appears doomed despite stay of execution

 

Julian Assange's fight to evade extradition to
Sweden appeared doomed today though he was given a stay of execution by the
highest court in the land.

His celebrity-endorsed legal battle trundled on without him as the self-proclaimed champion of truth and transparency remained stuck in London's notorious traffic, undoubtedly disappointing his legion of fans.

While vastly diminished in number from the early days of the furore surrounding the WikiLeaks founder, they were as vociferous as ever, penned in outside the Supreme Court yesterday, carrying megaphones, guitars and banners proclaiming “Free Assange” and “God Save Julian” for the sea of cameras brought in by the world's media.

Despite missing his day in court, Mr Assange imparted his disappointment at his failed appeal in suitable fashion by tweeting: “We got the news not hoped for.”

The 40-year-old had argued that an European Extradition Warrant from Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual molestation was invalid as the public prosecutor who issued it did not constitute a “judicial authority”.

The Australian computer expert, who has achieved such public fame since downloading hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents onto the web that he has had plays written about him and now hosts his own talk show on Russian television, has always insisted sex was consensual and the allegations are “politically motivated”.

But yesterday the judges said that under the European Framework Decision as well as the UK's Extradition Act 2003, a prosecutor could be seen as a judicial authority. By a majority of five to two, they dismissed his appeal against an extradition order first granted in February 2011 and upheld by the High Court last November.

His case was partially trumped by the French translation “autorite judiciaire”, which judges at the Supreme Court said carried a wider meaning that simply a judge or court. The court had heard that during parliamentary exchanges, ministerial assurances were given that a judicial authority should mean a court but President of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips said that in a substantial number of countries it was the practice that public prosecutors had been issuing arrest warrants since 1957.

Nevertheless they granted his lawyers 14 days to apply to have the case re-opened after they insisted that they had not been given an opportunity to argue on the very legal points on which the judges had based their decision.

Outside court Mr Assange's supporters claimed the case proved that the British Government had been “misled” when it implemented the framework for the European Arrest Warrant.

They revealed that at the same time as applying to have the Supreme Court case re-opened they were preparing to try and challenge the extradition in the European Court of Human Rights

Mr Assange's solicitor Gareth Peirce described it as a “chaotic legal situation” and said that the divided opinion of the judges proved that this was an important issue that needed to be determined.

“Parliament was misled when it implemented the European framework on this basis,” said Ms Peirce yesterday. “The way we understand it is that judicial authority is a court of judge. But the majority of judges have decided that practice effectively trumps parliament.”

The acclaimed journalist John Pilger, a long term supporter of Mr Assange, who has been confined under bail conditions to Ellingham Hall country house in Norfolk, said: “In some respects it is a drawn out charade. If it was not Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, we would not be standing here today, no doubt about that.”

He continued: “It is not over. It is certainly not over. They are going to see if the European Court will consider it. Whether or not that freezes the extradition, we don't know.”

Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer representing the two Swedish women who accuse Mr Assange of sex crimes, expressed relief at the Supreme Court's decision, but said the British judicial system should have dealt with the case more quickly.

"Now, finally, we have a decision," he told Associated Press, dismissing suggestions that the underlying motive behind the extradition was to hand Mr Assange over to the United States: "He is not at a greater risk of being handed over from Sweden than from Britain.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones