Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden

Correction — March 3, 2011
This article mentions that Mr Julian Assange was to be extradited on charges of Sexual Assault. This is incorrect. The offences specified in the Arrest Warrant were of "Sexual Molestation", not Sexual Assault. We apologise for any offence the incorrect information may have caused.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Assange at the SKUP conference for investigative journalism, Norway, March 2010.
Image: Espen Moe.

Today, a British court ordered Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, to be extradited to Sweden. Assange, a 39 year old Australian, has been accused by two Swedish women of sexual assaults against them.

Assange's lawyers have the option of appealing against this decision, and have decided to do so. Assange has denied the claims of sexual abuse, claiming the allegations to be politically motivated because his website recently published secret US diplomatic cables. Earlier, during the hearing, Assange claimed that rape cases in Sweden were "tried in secret behind closed doors in a flagrant denial of justice", and termed the country "the Saudi Arabia of feminism."

Judge Howard Riddle, in his verdict, declared the allegations made by the two Swedish women a valid reason for extradition and also attested the validity of Sweden's demand to send Assange to the country for further questioning.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, lawyer for Assange, suggested the latter could be extradited to the United States, on charges concerning the release of 250,000 US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, where he could be sentenced to death penalty. His Swedish counterpart, Clare Montgomery QC, stated that while Assange's trial would be held in private, the arguments raised in the trial would be released to the public. She also assured that Sweden was going to provide "protection" against the alleged risk of Assange's extradition to the US, terming it as a "threat and violation." The European Court of Human Rights has also agreed to intervene if Assange was subjected to an "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the US, she added.

Assange had been granted bail in December, but has been electronically monitored ever since.

Assange has been accused of raping a sleeping woman, during his visit to Stockholm last year. Another woman has alleged that the Wikileaks founder sexual assaulted her thrice. If the Swedish court declares him guilty, he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

Paul Stephens, the Australian ambassador to Sweden, had earlier written to the country's Justice Minister, appealing that if Assange was extradited, his hearing "would proceed in accordance with due process and the provisions prescribed under Swedish law, as well as applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms."

Assange is likely to remain in custody, since bail is not granted in Sweden before a trial or the accused being released.

Related news

"Wikileaks founder Julian Assange granted bail, set free" — Wikinews, December 17, 2010