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Assange can take case to Britain’s top court

posted 5 Dec 2011, 05:51 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 5 Dec 2011, 05:52 ]

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wins the right to take his extradition fight to Britain's highest court.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (DECEMBER 5, 2011) (REUTERS) - British judges ruled on Monday (December 5) that Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, could take his year-long fight against extradition to Sweden to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

Swedish authorities want to question the 40-year-old Australian over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers in August 2010.

Assange, who has been living in Britain since his arrest in December last year, denies wrongdoing.

"The long struggle for justice and for me and others continues," he said outside the court, as supporters cheered him on.

He now has 14 days in which to formally lodge an appeal, meaning his stay in Britain is certain to stretch into 2012.

The High Court certified that the case raises the question as to whether the Swedish prosecutor who issued the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Assange was a "judicial authority". Assange's lawyers argue the prosecutor was not, and the warrant was therefore invalid.

Mark Summers, appearing for Assange, said some 60 extradition cases had now been considered by the High Court in which the EAWs had been issued by prosecutors, as opposed to a magistrate or some other judicial authority.

At the end of the hearing, the judge announced the court felt "constrained" to certify that the case raised a question of general public importance. However it would be left to the Supreme Court to decide whether to give Assange actual leave to appeal.

Assange spent nine days in London's Wandsworth prison after his arrest last year. He was freed a week before Christmas on bail and has since been living at the country house of a wealthy supporter in eastern England.

His arrest came shortly after WikiLeaks published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables that included unflattering views of world leaders and candid assessments of security threats.

Assange says the allegations are politically motivated.

He had lost his last attempt to avoid being sent to Sweden on November 2 after two High Court judges upheld a previous ruling.

In 2010, WikiLeaks posted 391,832 secret papers on the Iraq war and 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict. It has also made available about 250,000 individual cables, daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world.