Assange extradition case goes to Supreme Court

Julian Assange Julian Assange says his extradition to Sweden would breach his human rights

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The UK Supreme Court has said it will consider an appeal by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange against his extradition to Sweden.

Britain's highest court said seven judges would hear the case in February.

Mr Assange, who remains on conditional bail in the UK, is wanted by Swedish authorities for questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

The 40-year-old Australian denies the allegations and claims they are politically motivated.

The High Court previously approved his extradition, a decision that Mr Assange argues was unlawful.

The Swedish authorities are seeking to put him on trial on accusations of raping one woman and "sexually molesting and coercing" another in Stockholm in August 2010.

Mr Assange's Wikileaks website published a mass of material from leaked diplomatic cables embarrassing several governments.

The US Army analyst suspected of leaking the documents appeared in an American military court on Friday, where he faces 22 charges of obtaining and distributing government secrets.

Bradley Manning made his first appearance in a courthouse in Maryland. He faces a court martial next year and, if convicted, could face life in prison.

Protest in Fort Meade, Maryland Campaigners protested outside a military courthouse in Maryland on Friday

The US government has already said it will not seek the death penalty, which is the maximum sentence for "aiding the enemy", one of the charges faced by Mr Manning.

'Great importance'

Earlier this month in the UK, two High Court judges, Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley, decided that Mr Assange had raised a question on extradition law "of general public importance" and gave him 14 days to ask the Supreme Court for a final UK ruling.

On Friday, a Supreme Court spokesman said its justices had agreed to hear the case "given the great public importance of the issue raised, which is whether a prosecutor is a judicial authority".

He said: "A panel of three Supreme Court Justices - Lord Hope, Lord Mance and Lord Dyson - has considered the written submissions of the parties; this is the court's usual practice for considering applications for permission to appeal.

"The Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal and a hearing has been scheduled for two days, beginning on 1 February 2012."

The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement: "If, after the Supreme Court has heard the case, it dismisses Mr Assange's appeal, then his only further remedy is to apply immediately to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which will respond within 14 days.

"If it confirms that it does not agree to take the case then that is an end of the matter."

The CPS said if the court in Strasbourg did decline to take the case then Mr Assange would be extradited to Sweden as soon as practicable.

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