Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange has been battling the possibility of extradition since he was arrested and bailed in December. He has always said he was not guilty of these charges, made against him by two women last year.
The chief magistrate, Howard Riddle delivered his verdict at a hearing this morning in Belmarsh magistrates court in London. We would expect this verdict to be appealed however which could delay the final decision for several more months.
The defence for Assange has said that he will not receive a fair trial in Sweden and they have also argued that The European arrest warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden is invalid because he has not been charged with any offense and that the alleged assaults are not legitmate extraditable offences.
The fear for Assange is that the extradition to Sweden will make it easier for Washington to extradite him to the US on possible charges relating to Wikileaks US embassy cable leaks. If this was to happen then Sweden would have to ask the United Kingdom for an onward extradition. No other charges have yet been laid on Assange, although the activities of Wikileaks are still under investigation by the US.
The Swedish prosecutor has argued that Assange is being sought for prosecution, not just questioning, which means that the warrant is valid. The allegations against Assange say that during a visit to Stockholm in August, he had sex with a woman who was sleeping and he didn’t use a condom either, and didn’t ask for her consent. Another women is claiming three counts of sexual assault and if he is found guilty then he could face up to four years in prison.
KitGuru says: Assange is now held in custody because there is no system of bail in Sweden, until a possible trial or release.