WikiLeaks’ Assange loses appeal against extradition to Sweden

Julian Assange has denied allegations of rape and sexual assault and says they are related to the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents. (Reuters)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his appeal on Wednesday to block his extradition to Sweden to face questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.

The 40-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain in December and was appealing at the High Court in London against a lower court ruling in February that he should be sent to Sweden.

“The court dismissed the appeal,” the judgment said.

Assange had argued that because the European Arrest Warrant under which he was held was issued by a prosecutor, not a court, it was invalid, but the judges ruled it had been subject to independent judicial scrutiny in Sweden.

They also rejected his assertion that the claims made by two women of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and an accusation of rape would not as they were described be considered offences under English law.

One woman alleged that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep, and the judges rejected his lawyers’ contention that consent to sex on condition that a condom was used remained consent when a condom was not used.

“There is nothing in the statement from which it could be inferred that he reasonably expected that she would have consented to sex without a condom,” the court judgments said.

“It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did,” it added.

Assange has denied the allegations, claiming they are linked to the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents which have enraged governments across the world, especially the United States.

Assange’s lawyer said he was considering an appeal. He has two weeks in which to do so.

However, any appeal to Britain’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, must be made on a point of law considered to be of general public interest.

Assange’s whistle-blowing website caused a stir last year by publishing more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Last month, Assange said WikiLeaks would stop publishing secret cables and devote itself instead to fund-raising because of a financial block on payments to the site by U.S. firms such as Visa and MasterCard.

He said if the block was not ended by the turn of the year, WikiLeaks would not be able to continue.

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