Assange Loses Appeal

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Julian Assange has lost his UK High Court appeal against extradition to Sweden.

The UK High Court rejected all four of Assange’s appeal grounds and is now awaiting a further submission from his counsel to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The scene outside the High Court this morning (9pm AEST last night) was like a bizarre carnival as journalists and supporters waited for Assange to exit the building, and then surrounded him on the slow passage to a waiting car.

Some of those supporting Assange were Occupy protesters who had donned Guy Fawkes masks and were screaming over megaphones "Julian, Occupy London support you".

But despite the rejection on all appeal grounds Assange and his supporters remained determined and optimistic. In a brief statement after the verdict Assange said:

"I have not been charged with any crime in any country. Despite this the European arrest warrant is so restrictive that it prevents UK courts from considering the facts of a case, as judges have made clear here today."

"No doubt there will be many attempts to try and spin these proceedings as they occur today but they are merely technical."

Assange’s legal argument had four main grounds for appeal, and each was considered and rejected by the court (read the full judgement here). The first was that a "judicial authority" did not issue the European Arrest Warrant for the purposes of the Extradition Act 2003.

Assange had argued that an authority needed to be an "independent person or body exercising judicial power and functions," and that the Swedish prosecutor who issued the warrant did not satisfy this test.

The court rejected this argument and held that "although the status of a prosecutor is more debatable, a prosecutor does in some member states come within the term ‘judicial authority’."

They held the interpretation taken by the Assange team was too narrow, and that judicial authority "is not confided to a judge who adjudicates but can extend to a body that prosecutes".

The second was whether the offences in question satisfied the "dual criminality" requirement of the Act. This point was not in contention for the rape charge, which is considered one of 32 framework offences that dual criminality is not needed for. But the two allegations of sexual molestation and one allegation of unlawful coercion were all found to meet the dual criminality requirement.

Assange’s third ground of appeal was that he was not "accused" of an offence in Sweden because he had not been charged.

The court held that it was clear from the detailed investigation and from the evidence of the complainants that Assange was wanted for more than mere questioning, and the court was satisfied that he was "accused" for the purposes of the Act.

The final ground of appeal was that while Assange was only accused of an offence it was disproportionate to seek his arrest and extradition for it.

The court also rejected this, noting that: "this is self evidently not a case relating to a trivial offence, but to serious sexual offences. Assuming proportionality is a requirement, it is difficult to see what real scope there is for the argument in circumstances where a Swedish Court of Appeal has taken the view, as part of Swedish procedure, that an arrest is necessary."

The court also ordered Assange to pay costs totalling £19,000, which his counsel said he will contest. While this may seem like a relatively small amount in comparison to some judicial proceedings, Wikileaks is already struggling financially and this will certainly be a concern for Assange.

Assange has 14 days to seek leave to appeal, and the High Court justices suggested a tentative hearing in about three weeks time to determine whether or not they should grant leave for appeal to the Supreme Court.

For leave to be granted there must be "a point of law of general public importance involved in the decision", according to s 32 of the Extradition Act 2003. Assange’s legal team did not immediately assert grounds for appeal, so it remains to be seen on what grounds this point of law will be argued.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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