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ASSANGE EXTRADITION FIGHT

WIKILEAKS

Extradition ‘undermines’ legal principles: lawyer

Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, has appeared at Britain’s Supreme Court, starting the new leg in his battle against his rape allegations and his potential extradition to Sweden.

Extradition 'undermines' legal principles: lawyer

The 40-year-old Australian’s lawyers told the Supreme Court in London that the Swedish prosecutor who issued the European Arrest Warrant in December 2010 was not a proper judicial authority.

“This appeal involves a single issue of law which can be very simply stated. The question is whether a Swedish prosecutor has judicial authority for the purposes of the extradition act,” Assange’s lawyer Dinah Rose told the court.

Rose said legal principles going back 1,500 years were “undermined” by the fact that the warrant for Assange’s arrest was issued by a prosecutor, saying there was no guarantee they would be independent and impartial” like a judge.

She said it was “a serious interference with individual liberty”.

Seven judges — six male and one female — are hearing Assange’s appeal over two days at the court in London and are not expected to return their judgment for several weeks.

Dozens of supporters gathered in bright winter sunshine as Assange arrived as a peace activist outside sang “he shall be released”.

He sat in court flanked by female supporters and near supporter Vaughan Smith, at whose mansion in eastern England Assange has spent most of the last year under virtual house arrest.

If the court rejects his appeal, the former computer hacker will have exhausted all his options in Britain but he could still make a last-ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, prosecutors have said.

Assange denies the rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women in Sweden, and insists the sex was consensual. He has also claimed that the allegations against him are politically motivated.

WikiLeaks has enraged Washington by leaking thousands of classified US documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Assange has said he fears he will eventually be handed over to the United States.

While the legal battle has dragged on, Assange’s celebrity status has grown — he is to host his own TV show and will make an appearance as himself later this month on the 500th episode of the US cartoon show Simpsons.

Announcing the chat show, WikiLeaks described its founder as “one of the world’s most recognisable revolutionary figures” and promised interviews with “key political players and thinkers”.

WikiLeaks claims it has secured licensing commitments covering more than 600 million viewers across cable, satellite and terrestrial networks. So far Russia’s state-run RT is the only channel to confirm it will broadcast the show.

Assange’s extradition to Sweden was initially approved by a lower court in February 2011. An appeal to the High Court was rejected in November, but it subsequently granted him permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

If this appeal fails, the WikiLeaks founder will have only one other option to stop his extradition – an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“If the ECHR takes the case then his current bail conditions would remain in force and he would remain in the UK until the proceedings at the ECHR have concluded,” the Crown Prosecution Service said in a commentary on the case.

“If the ECHR declines to take the case then he will be extradited to Sweden as soon as arrangements can be made,” England’s state prosecutor said.

Concerning Assange’s case before the Supreme Court, Julian Knowles, an extradition law specialist with the Matrix Chambers law firm, said the question of whether a public prosecutor was a valid judicial authority had been comprehensively tested.

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JULIAN ASSANGE

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.

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