Assange cleared to continue extradition fight

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been cleared to apply to the UK Supreme Court in an attempt to block his extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, a London court ruled on Monday.

Assange cleared to continue extradition fight

Two High Court judges threw Assange a fresh legal lifeline when they ruled that the case raised a question “of general public importance” which should be decided by the Supreme Court “as quickly as possible”.

Although the judges refused Assange permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, they ruled that his lawyers could write directly to the higher court asking them to take on the case.

Addressing a scrum of cameramen and photographers outside the court in London, Assange said the judges had made the “correct” decision.

“Today the High Court has decided that the issues arising from my own case are of general public importance and may be of assistance to other cases and should be heard by the Supreme Court,” he said.

“I think that is a correct decision. The long struggle for justice for me and others continues.”

The issue of public interest centres on whether a public prosecutor has the right to sign the European arrest warrant under which Assange was detained in December last year.

The 40-year-old editor-in-chief of the whistleblowing website that has infuriated Washington by releasing hundreds of thousands of classified US documents has no guarantee that the Supreme Court will actually hear the case.

His lawyer Gareth Peirce said his legal team had 14 days to submit a written petition.

She confirmed that if the court refuses to hear the request, then Assange would have exhausted all legal avenues in Britain.

“The Supreme Court receives it and considers it on paper, three judges from the Supreme Court consider it and whether to grant leave to the case,” Peirce told reporters.

“If they refuse leave, it is the end of it.”

Assange is now set to spend a second Christmas at the country mansion of a supporter in eastern England where he has been living under stringent bail conditions.

Two women in Sweden have alleged that Assange raped one of them and sexually molested another after he held a seminar in Stockholm in August last year.

His accusers’ lawyer said the British court decision was “regrettable”.

“If this doesn’t end with his extradition, you can just toss out the whole European arrest warrant system, since it then would be useless,” Claes Borgström told Sweden’s TT news agency.

The WikiLeaks founder strongly denies any wrongdoing and says the sex was consensual.

He believes the allegations are politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of classified US files about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Later releases of cables from US embassies across the world also embarrassed the US administration with their often frank appraisals of world leaders.

A lower court initially approved Assange’s extradition in February. He appealed to the High Court which rejected his challenge on November 2nd.

Support for the platinum blond WikiLeaks chief has dwindled amid a slew of controversies, including a spectacular falling-out with the organisation’s former media partners, the New York Times and Guardian newspapers.

Former WikiLeaks colleagues have turned on him, attacking the way he ran the site.

However, he retains many supporters and this month WikiLeaks was awarded a top Australian journalism prize, the Walkley Awards, for its work in releasing the cables.

The suspected source of the files, US soldier Bradley Manning, was arrested and has spent the last year and a half in a military prison. He is due to appear before a US military tribunal on December 16th.

WikiLeaks suffered a jolt when the site was forced to suspend releasing files in October after a funding blockade. It resumed publication last week with the launch of a project on the global surveillance industry.

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.