WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange loses extradition appeal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be extradited to Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual offenses, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, upholding a lower court ruling and dismissing Assange’s appeal.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority issued a European Arrest Warrant for Assange in November 2010, seeking his extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual offenses. He was arrested in London on Dec. 7, 2010, and placed under virtual house arrest while courts examined the extradition request, which he opposed.

Wednesday’s ruling turned on a technicality regarding whether the European Arrest Warrant had been issued by a “judicial authority.” The court ruled that it had, although two out of seven members dissented.

However, Assange’s counsel Dinah Rose suggested that the majority of the Court appears to have based its decision on the interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, on which no argument was heard, according to a statement from the court.

The Supreme Court granted Rose and Assange 14 days to make an application on that point. If the application is made, the Court will decide whether to re-open the appeal and accept further submissions — either verbally through a further hearing, or on paper — on the matter, the court said.

Assange could also appeal the extradition to the European Court of Human Rights.

In Sweden, the Prosecution Authority continues to wait for the decision in the U.K. to become legally binding. After that has happened, it expects Assange to extradited to Sweden within 10 days, according to a spokeswoman.

Assange himself didn’t show up for the verdict, but his supporters — who are still convinced he is the victim of a conspiracy — had once again gathered outside court building, brandishing signs saying “Free Assange!, Free Manning!” and “Exposing war crimes is not a crime.”

WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website that Assange founded, faces an uncertain future.

The flow of funding to the website was choked off in the same month that Assange was arrested, as Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America all stopped processing donations citing fears that they were funding illegal activity. That blocked over 95 percent of its donations, the site said, forcing it to devote all its efforts to alternate methods of fundraising, and slowing its work on processing leaked documents.

The discovery of a number of high-profile flaws in the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol and in the Certificate Authorities that underpin it, have also undermined confidence in the secure submissions system WikiLeaks used to collect leaked documents.

At a public appearance in December 2011, Assange said SSL is no longer safe, and announced that WikiLeaks is working on a new submissions system. However, he would not say when it will go online.

Assange continued his work promoting WikiLeaks following his arrest in the U.K. and has even recorded six episodes of a TV chat show for Russian network RT.

But his supporters fear that, in Sweden, he could face up to a year in solitary confinement awaiting questioning and up to four years in prison if he is charged and subsequently convicted.

They also fear that, from Sweden, he could be transferred to the U.S. to face charges under that country’s Espionage Act. Two of WikiLeaks’ most widely reported leaks involved U.S. diplomatic cables (“Cablegate”) and video from a U.S. helicopter gunship in Iraq (the so-called “Collateral Murder” video), which the U.S. Army has accused Private First Class Bradley Manning of leaking.

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