WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost his Supreme Court fight against extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.
His lawyers look set to fight today's verdict and are said to be considering an application for his case to be reopened on the basis that there had been a flawed hearing. Assange has been given 14 days to consider today's judgement before making a decision on what to do next.
He is wanted in Sweden to answer accusations of rape, sexual molestation and sexual coercion.
The alleged offences are said to have taken place in Stockholm in August 2010 while he was on a lecture tour. Assange says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated. His lawyers argued that the European arrest warrant (EAW) issued against him was "invalid and unenforceable."
His defence team said the Swedish public prosecutor who issued the arrest warrant was not a "judicial authority" and therefore did not have the right to do so. Judges from the Supreme Court disagreed with him by a majority of five to two. Lord Philips, Supreme Court president said:
The point of law is simple to state, but it has not been simple to resolve. Indeed we have only reached our decision by a 5-2 majority
The meaning of the phrase "judicial authority" was debated by the court.
Assange's lawyers contended that a public prosecutor could not issue a European arrest warrant as it was beyond their remit. They argued that MPs did not think public prosecutors would be able to issue such warrants when they agreed to pass the 2003 Extradition Act. It is under this act that any citizen who is wanted in connection with a crime within any country in Europe can be transferred back to that country to face trial.
The Court was divided. Two judges thought that a "judicial authority" should mean only a court or a judge, whilst five judges ruled that the meaning includes a public prosecutor.
Assange's lawyers signaled they would continue their fight.
– Soliticor Gareth Peirce
We are going to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider
John Pilger was in court today to support Assange. He said he was disappointed by the ruling.