Only Supreme Court can save Julian Assange now

Judges back WikiLeaks founder's extradition to Sweden to answer sexual assault charges
  • @jerometaylor

There were privately hired bodyguards, anonymous supporters sporting Guy Fawkes masks, shouts of "we love you Julian" and the obligatory 10-man-deep paparazzi scrum. When Julian Assange comes to town, so does the circus.

Dressed in a dapper navy suit and sporting a Remembrance Day poppy on his left lapel, the WikiLeaks founder walked up the steps of the High Court yesterday to hear from two senior judges that he was a step closer to being extradited to Sweden to face charges of raping one woman and sexually molesting another in Stockholm last year.

Eleven months after his first appearance at Westminster magistrates' court – and almost exactly a year since WikiLeaks published the first of America's secret diplomatic cables – two High Court judges ruled that a Swedish prosecutor's European arrest warrant for the 40-year-old Australian was a "lawful" and "proportionate" response to the inquiry into allegations that he sexually assaulted two women there last year. Unless he is given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court – a decision that will be discussed at a separate hearing in three weeks – the likelihood is that Mr Assange could be on a plane to Stockholm by Christmas.

In a brief statement on the steps of the court, Mr Assange gave no hint as to what legal steps he would take next, in an indication that a costly appeal is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

"I have not been charged with any crime, in any country," he said, speaking against a barrage of camera flashes. "We will be considering our next step in the days ahead. No doubt there will be many attempts made to try to spin these proceedings as they occurred today, but they were merely technical."

The wood-panelled surroundings of Court Four are now used to the often bizarre scenes played out when Mr Assange is present. As with previous hearings, the gallery was as packed as the reporter benches. Security guards had to politely ask one member of the public to take down a WikiLeaks banner.

Rudolphe Charlot, a 23-year-old French-born organic-food grocer from south London, was held in the cells for two hours and reprimanded by the judges for taking a photograph of proceedings on his mobile phone. Although using phones to make live updates from the court is now allowed, any audio or video recording of proceedings is still forbidden. Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley were asked to consider four legal questions on Mr Assange's extradition: whether the Swedish arrest warrant was issued by a proper judicial authority; are the offences for which he is sought crimes in Britain; is Mr Assange "an accused" and is a warrant a proportionate response to the allegations against him. The judges said yes to all four points.

One year on... Enjoying the good life under house arrest

A year at Ellingham Hall appears to have done the world of good for Julian Assange, who cut a remarkably fuller figure outside the High Court yesterday from the skinny man who first faced charges a year ago.

Mr Assange has spent the past year under house arrest at the 600-acre Norfolk estate, hosted by its owner Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline Club.