News / Europe

    British Judge Clears Wikileaks Founder for Extradition to Sweden

    The founder of WikiLeaks website Julian Assange arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, February 24, 2011.
    The founder of WikiLeaks website Julian Assange arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, February 24, 2011.
    Selah Hennessy

    A judge in Britain has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face rape charges.

    Assange is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and raping another while he was in Sweden last year.  He was defiant in response to the verdict.  "It comes as no surprise, but it is nonetheless wrong," he said.

    Assange has been fighting extradition since he was arrested and released on bail in December.  He has consistently said the allegations against him, made by two women last August, are false.

    He said Thursday that the European arrest warrant system had gone "amok," and he now fears being thrown into a legal system he does not understand using a language he does not speak.

    Assange says he will appeal Thursday’s decision. “There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merits of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden.  And of course we have always known that we would appeal, we have always known that in all likelihood we would have to appeal,” he said.

    Assange’s website, Wikileaks, began releasing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables last year - a move that infuriated Washington.

    Assange and his legal team have said they fear his extradition to Sweden would be the first step towards extradition to the United States related to the postings on Wikileaks.

    Authorities in Washington are investigating whether Assange has broken any laws, but no charges have been filed.

    Ben Keith, a Britain-based lawyer specializing in extradition proceedings, says Assange’s fears may be unfounded. "I don't think it's a legitimate fear because he has the same protections in Sweden as he does in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is just as likely to extradite him to the United States as Sweden is," he said.

    Assange has seven days to lodge an appeal.

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