Judge rules Assange can be extradited for sex crimes

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to appear in court Thursday to hear if he'll be extradited to Sweden to face sex-crimes allegations. Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about accusations of sexual abuse from two women relating to a brief visit there last summer. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden over sex crimes claims, a judge said Thursday. Assange’s lawyer said he would appeal the ruling.

Judge Howard Riddle said the allegations of rape and sexual molestation by two women are extraditable offenses and a Swedish warrant was properly issued.

Assange has been out on bail during the extradition fight, and has seven days to appeal the ruling to the High Court.

Riddle said “there is simply no reason to believe there has been a mistake” about the arrest warrant.

Assange’s lawyers have questioned Sweden’s judicial process and expressed concern their client risks being handed over to the U.S., which is investigating whether Assange’s website should be held responsible for obtaining hundreds of thousands of classified United States government and military documents and posting large numbers of them on the Internet.

Lawyers for Sweden have argued that authorities made repeated attempts to interview Assange while he was in Scandinavia, but to no avail.

In his ruling, the judge attacked the defense case against extradition point by point. He said he is satisfied that the crimes Assange, 39, is accused of are extraditable offenses, and rejected the claim that comments made against Assange by prosecutors and politicians in Sweden would pervert the course of justice.

Assange’s lawyers have said that Sweden’s custom of hearing rape cases behind closed doors mean he would not get a fair trial. Riddle said the practice was common in Sweden.

In Sweden, Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer representing the two women who accused Assange of sex crimes said the decision was expected.

“It’s just too bad that it took so long,” Borgstrom said. Assange “will probably appeal this decision for some reason that is hard to understand. He claims that he hasn’t committed a crime so he should just come here and sort it out. I expect that he will be on Swedish soil before the summer.”

Bjorn Hurtig, Assange’s Swedish lawyer, told The Associated Press that he was already preparing to represent his client.

“If he comes to Sweden, I think he has great chances of being freed,” Hurtig said. “And I’ll be waiting for him, ready to fight for him tooth and nail.”

About a dozen WikiLeaks and Assange supporters in ski hats and parkas gathered outside the court hours before the hearing on a damp morning, hanging banners and signs saying “Free Julian Assange and Bradley Manning,” the young U.S. Army private suspected of leaking the documents.

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Louise Nordstrom and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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2 Responses to "Judge rules Assange can be extradited for sex crimes"

  1. Nicola Weaver  February 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Does anyone REALLY believe that he can get a fair trial in Sweden after all that has gone on? Does anyone REALLY think that hostile comments by the Prime Minister and other politicians doesn’t influence judges and juries?

    Anyone who believes that is in cloud cuckoo land.

    It is clearly now a political process, and he will be subjected to a political trial if he is extradited.

    FYI, all the Assange and Wikileaks videos have been collected here:
    http://wikileaks.videohq.tv

  2. Carl Nemo  February 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Talk about about a bizarre twist of fate or what here…?!

    Assange is going to be extradited on Swedish statutes that seem to even stalk the boudoir. It’s said the Swedes are among the happiest people on earth, but after reading this excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor I get the impression although the Swedish women look incredibly ‘hot’, to indulge in their favors is the equivalent of juggling ‘rattlesnakes’… / : |

    “The circumstances of the case – both women told Swedish police they had at least one consensual sexual encounter with Assange – has fueled plenty of online rumor and disinformation. A mention from the Swedish police and press reports that Assange failed to use a condom in one instance, and that in another his condom broke, have led to many false claims that having unprotected sex is illegal in Sweden, and that the country has a “broken condom law.” …extract from the Christian Science Monitor article

    Note: In other articles it’s alleged that one of the women was asleep which is also illegal. What isn’t illegal in Sweden?

    It seems to me Assange would have been better off hanging out in the U.S. then fleeing back home to Australia…no? Sex in Sweden transcends unsafe sex to the point of committing suicide by statute. So much for everso ‘happy’ socialism…no?

    Carl Nemo **==

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