In the Media

Assange awaits ruling on extradition

PUBLISHED December 5, 2011

Julian Assange will discover today whether he will be finally extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The WikiLeaks founder launched a last-gasp appeal last month after two High Court judges upheld an earlier ruling that he must return to Stockholm. Today the same judges, Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley, will decide whether to grant him permission to appeal to the Supreme Court because his case raises issues of ?general public importance?.

If they rule against him, Mr Assange will be extradited within ten days.

The 40-year-old Australian denies raping a woman and sexually molesting another in Stockholm in August last year.

He claims his arrest, under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system, was unlawful because it was made by a prosecutor rather than a ?judicial authority?.

?I have not been charged with any crime in any country,? he said last month. ?The European arrest warrant is so restrictive that it prevents UK courts from considering the facts of a case.?

Geoffrey Robertson QC said: ?To describe a prosecutor as a ?judicial authority? is a contradiction in terms. Judges must be independent and impartial. Prosecutors are partisan and cannot always be trusted to be fair.?

Mr Assange?s fate will be decided on the same day as a landmark House of Commons vote on the European Arrest Warrant and the controversial extradition treaty between the US and the UK.

Critics, including the mother of Asperger?s sufferer Gary McKinnon, say the treaty is skewed against the rights of British citizens.

Figures obtained by Dominic Raab MP, who secured Monday?s debate, show that between 2004 and July, 123 people were extradited from Britain to the US, while only 54 travelled in the opposite direction.

Mr Raab, MP for Walton and Esher, said: ?We have seen countless miscarriages of justice under the European Arrest Warrant where innocent British citizens have been subject to the most appalling treatment. The case for reform is overwhelming, it has support from across the main political parties, now we need to get on and do it.?

Fifty-three MPs have so far backed the motion, including Sir Menzie Campbell, the Liberal Democrat, and Edward Leigh, the Tory.

It is understood that Tory MPs will be allowed a free vote. A Labour source told The Times that the party would decide whether to extend the same freedom to its MPs today.

The source said: ?The European Arrest Warrant is vital to our national security and was used to bring back one of the failed 21/7 bombers.

?We don?t support the motion becuase it would go too far. It risks us being unable to use this vital tool against terrorism and serious crime to bring criminals back to Britain who may have tried to flee justice.?

Louis Susman, the US Ambassador, told a parliamentary committee last week: ?I believe that having signed the treaty, and having had it tested both through the British justice system and by independent experts, it is now incumbent on the UK Government to stand in support of it.?

The US authorities only need to show ?reasonable suspicion? that someone is responsible for an offence while Britain must show the equivalent of ?probable cause? to bring an American here.

An official review of the extradition rules by retired judge Sir Scott Baker concluded last month that the Extradition Act was not biased and did not need reform.