Julian Assange was given a lifeline by the High Court today to fight his extradition to Sweden as judges paved the way for an appeal to the UK?s highest court.
The 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder, who faces sex crime allegations in Stockholm, had his appeal against deportation refused by two High Court judges, but they also ruled that the case had ?special public interest? and he should be allowed to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
The decision means the controversial Australian, who denies any wrongdoing, now lives to fight another day, with two weeks to officially lodge a written appeal to Britain?s highest court.
Assange, who argues it would be ?unfair and unlawful? to order his extradition, was arrested in Britain last December on a European warrant over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women over a five-day period in the Swedish capital last August.
A lower court initially approved his extradition in February, but Assange appealed that ruling to the High Court, which rejected his challenge last month, setting in motion his application to have the Supreme Court hear his case.
At today?s hearing the two High Court judges, Sir John Thomas and Mr. Justice Ouseley, turned down Assange?s appeal but were persuaded that his case was of special public interest and therefore recognised his right to apply for a hearing at the higher court.
Assange had expressed fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, he could be sent on to the US to face unspecified charges related to WikiLeaks? release of hundreds of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables last year.
He claims the allegations against him are politically motivated.
Assange has been living at the home of a friend in the east of England throughout his legal battle after being freed on bail. The transferring of the case to the Supreme Court was expected to keep Assange in the UK for several months before a final ruling is made.