Wikileaks' Julian Assange handed 'resounding defeat'

By Clive Coleman
Legal correspondent, BBC News

Image caption,
Julian Assange is to appeal against the decision to extradite him to Sweden

Today's judgement is a resounding defeat for Julian Assange.

Senior District Judge Howard Riddle found against him on each of the principal arguments against his extradition.

One of those was that the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued against Mr Assange had been issued for the purpose of questioning and not prosecution.

Central to that was the evidence of Mr Assange's Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig.

Judge Riddle found Mr Hurtig to be an "unreliable" witness as to the efforts he made to contact his client between 21, 22 September and 29 September.

He found "attempts were made by the prosecuting authorities to arrange interrogation in the period 21-30 September, but those attempts failed".

Accordingly he found "as a matter of fact, and looking at all the circumstances in the round, this person (Mr Assange) passes the threshold of being an accused person and is wanted for prosecution".

Another question raised by Mr Assange was whether the offences specified in the warrant were extraditable offences.

Key to this argument was the issue of consent, or the lack of it, in the allegations made against Mr Assange by the two women in Sweden.

Judge Riddle said: "I am satisfied that the specified offences are extradition offences."

'Adverse publicity'

Much was made of the fact that rape trials in Sweden are customarily held in private. It was argued this was against the principle of open justice and would mean Mr Assange would not receive a fair trial.

The judge noted the decision as to whether the evidence at any trial would be taken in public or private would be taken by the Swedish court.

He did find however there had been "considerable adverse publicity in Sweden for Mr Assange, in the popular press, the television and in parliament".

Mr Assange's legal team has indicated this issue would be central to their appeal against the decision.

On a more technical point, Judge Riddle also found the Swedish Prosecutor Marianne Ny was a "judicial authority with the function of issuing arrest warrants". Her status as an authorised prosecutor had been questioned.

The judge also said extradition was "compatible" with Mr Assange's human rights.

'Limited grounds'

Before the extradition hearing it had been strongly suggested Mr Assange would argue the arrest warrant against him was politically motivated.

Judge Riddle said: "This has been hinted at, but no evidence has been provided, and the bar is neither argued nor found."

Mr Assange's appeal will be heard by the Administrative Court. He has seven days to lodge a notice of appeal and the hearing should take place within a period of 40 days after that. In practice however that can stretch to three to four months.

A further appeal lies to the Supreme Court, but only if the Administrative Court certifies that the appeal involves a point of law of general public importance, or the Supreme Court grants leave to appeal.

Any appeal will be challenging for Mr Assange.

Specialist extradition lawyer Michael Caplan QC said: "Resisting EAW requests are exceedingly difficult.

"The process assumes that a person will get an equally fair trial in any of the member states, so there are very limited grounds for opposing extradition."

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