Assange extradition request legitimate, says Sweden
LONDON SWEDISH authorities told Britain’s Supreme Court on Thursday that a bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for questioning over rape claims is valid and does not breach his human rights.
In his final avenue of appeal within the British legal system, Assange’s entire case rests on the argument that the Swedish prosecutor who ordered his arrest in December 2010 was not a proper judicial authority.
But Clare Montgomery, a British lawyer acting on behalf of the Swedish prosecuting authorities, rejected claims made the previous day by lawyers for the 40-year-old Australian.
“The issuing member state has the task of identifying who it regards as the judicial authority competent to issue the European Arrest Warrant,” she told the panel of seven judges.
Montgomery added that there was “nothing either shocking to the conscience or alternative to basic human rights” for a prosecutor or police officer to issue such a warrant.
She raised the legal systems of France, Denmark, the Netherlands and even Cambodia — and there was laughter in the court when one of the judges gently ribbed her after she attempted to say “judicial authorities” in Dutch.
It is the second and final day of the hearing at the woodpanelled courtroom in central London.
The judges are expected to defer their decision on Assange’s fate for several weeks.
Dozens of supporters were again in court to see the whitehaired former hacker, who has become a cause celebre since his anti-secrecy website enraged Washington by leaking thousands of secret US documents.
Britain’s Supreme Court only deals with cases that it decides raise a wider point of public interest — which in Assange’s case would be an overturning of the whole fasttrack European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system.
On Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Dinah Rose argued that extraditing him to Sweden on the basis of an EAW issued by a prosecutor would breach legal principles dating back 1,500 years.
She said that only a judge or similar official should count as a proper “judicial authority.” One of the judges mentioned the fact that Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, which deals with EAW requests, turned down the original warrant issued by Sweden.
The reason was because it did not include a mention of the maximum prison sentence, as stipulated by the EAW system.
The detail was included on the second warrant, which was accepted.
Assange has spent most of the last year under virtual house arrest at the mansion of a supporter in Norfolk, eastern England, although he has now moved out.
Assange denies the rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women in Sweden, and insists the sex was consensual.
He has also claimed that the allegations against him are politically motivated. Assange has said he fears he will eventually be handed over to the United States, where Bradley Manning, a US soldier accused of handing documents to WikiLeaks, faces a court-martial.