In a strange twist in an ongoing saga, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (which has been operating only since 2009) ruled 5-2 that Julian Assange should be deported to Sweden, then granted two weeks for his lawyers to review the decision because the court's argument "hinged on a legal point not addressed by either side in a February court hearing," the Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday. -- The legal point the court found decisive derived from the 1969 Vienna convention on the law of treaties. -- Assange supporters are still hoping that the European Court of Human Rights may intervene "because that is the final court in Europe and certainly he has a reasonable prospect there," Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robinson told the Australian. -- "But it is unlikely that they would halt the extradition; it's possible, but we'll have to wait and see." -- ABC News (Australia) reported that Assange "was not in the central London court for the judgment. One of his supporters, journalist John Pilger, said Mr. Assange was 'stuck in traffic' with his mother, who flew in from Australia for the verdict." -- The full 117-page ruling of the British Supreme Court can be read here....
ASSANGE GETS SURPRISE CHANCE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY (+VIDEO)
By Ben Arnoldy
Christian Science Monitor
May 30, 2012
LONDON -- Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be deported to Sweden to face questioning on sex-crime allegations, but Mr. Assange’s lawyer then won a surprise 14-day reprieve that has sent the legal fight into uncharted territory.
Assange shot to international notoriety in 2010 when his website published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents, including sensitive diplomatic cables. As he rose in prominence that year, two Swedish women alleged he sexually molested them. Swedish authorities want to question Assange, who maintains the sex was consensual and alleges the allegations are politically motivated.
In a 5-2 decision, the British court dealt a blow to Assange’s nearly two-year legal effort to stave off extradition to Sweden. But after the verdict was delivered, Assange’s lawyer Dinah Rose asked for two weeks to review the decision, arguing that it hinged on a legal point not addressed by either side in a February court hearing.
The court granted the unusual request, giving Assange’s team the chance to apply to reopen the case. Such a turn of events has only occurred once before at the top of the British court system, and for different reasons, meaning the effort to move Assange to Sweden just got more uncertain and protracted.
UNCHARTED LEGAL WATERS
“We’ve never been here before. In a sense we are all guessing,” says Carl Gardner, a British legal expert in London who blogs at HeadofLegal.com. “It could be that this is shut down relatively quickly . . . [but] there’s potential for this to spiral.”
Assange’s team is now expected to file an application within two weeks to reopen the case. What the court would do with the application is uncertain.
Today’s ruling indicated that at least three judges viewed as decisive a legal point from the 1969 Vienna convention on the law of treaties – a point the lawyers did not have a chance to debate in an earlier hearing, writes legal analyst Joshua Rozenberg in the *Guardian*. “[G]iven two weeks to prepare her case, Rose could well come up with other arguments. In the meantime, Assange can stay in the U.K.,” writes Mr. Rozenberg, summing up that “he lives to fight another day.”
The quickest resolution, says Mr. Gardner, would be for the Supreme Court to reopen the case, hear the arguments on the Vienna convention, and then decide it made no difference. “That would probably take a few weeks.”
EXTRADITION STILL LIKELY
In that case, Assange still has two other appeal options, neither of which are likely to halt his extradition to Sweden, says Gardner.
In Sweden, Assange could face prosecution and eventual imprisonment. His supporters have expressed concern that the U.S. would try to extradite him from Sweden.
“WikiLeaks is under serious threat,” read a statement from WikiLeaks. “The U.S., U.K., Swedish, and Australian governments are engaging in a coordinated effort to extradite its editor-in-chief Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges for journalistic activities.”
The U.S. government has not publicly tipped its hand about any plans to request Assange’s extradition from England or Sweden. But a diplomatic cable from Australia’s embassy in Washington obtained by the *Sydney Morning Herald* reportedly said that “a broad range of possible charges are under consideration, including espionage and conspiracy.”
A confidential email obtained by WikiLeaks from the Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor indicated that the U.S. has a sealed indictment on Assange.
But Gardner sees no advantage in the U.S. waiting for Assange to reach Sweden before trying to extradite him. He notes that under the European arrest warrant system, if Britain hands over Assange to Sweden he cannot then be moved elsewhere without British consent.
“Actually sending him to Sweden creates an extra block on sending him to America that doesn’t exist here [in England],” says Gardner.
JULIAN ASSANGE LOSES EXTRADITION FIGHT IN U.K. SUPREME COURT
By Mitchell Nadin and Mark Dodd
May 31, 2012
LONDON -- Julian Assange has lost his battle against extradition to Sweden, with Britain's Supreme Court ruling that a request from Sweden's public prosecutor satisfies British extradition laws.
The WikiLeaks founder is wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault. He has been under house arrest since the claims arose in December 2010.
Mr. Assange's legal team contested the warrant issued by Sweden because it was made by a prosecutor and not a judge, and therefore the issuer did not constitute a "judicial authority."
In his ruling, Lord Justice Phillips said although the claim was difficult to resolve, a five-two majority decided the term "judicial authority" in Britain's Extradition Act was based on a "European framework" and could apply to prosecutors.
Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said the decision did not surprise him because Europeans had a different definition of a judicial authority.
"There are technical possibilities but the main issue is the European Court of Human Rights because that is the final court in Europe and certainly he has a reasonable prospect there," he said. "But it is unlikely that they would halt the extradition; it's possible but we'll have to wait and see."
The court gave Mr. Assange a stay of 14 days on the extradition order after a request from his lawyer, Dinah Rose QC, who said she believed part of the judgment was based on a legal question that had not been raised during the hearing and which she had not had a chance to argue.
Ms. Rose said she would need to consider the judgment and possibly request that proceedings be reopened. If that bid also fails, Mr. Assange's legal team is expected to launch another appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which could override the British court's decision.
The federal opposition last night called on the government to ensure Mr. Assange received "unqualified consular support".
"I am concerned by the prejudicial statements the government has made about Mr. Assange, including the Attorney-General's claim that he fled Sweden -- which he (Mr. Assange) strongly contests," the federal opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, told the Australian.
"Then there's the Prime Minister's accusation of an illegal act over the release of U.S. cables. Yet she (Julia Gillard) has still not been able to identify any Australian law Mr. Assange has broken."
Supporters of Mr. Assange believe the allegations are a ploy to have him extradited to Stockholm and then deported to the U.S. on possible espionage or conspiracy charges.
Additional reporting: AAP
ASSANGE CONSIDERS NEXT MOVE AFTER LOSING APPEAL
By Lisa Millar and wires
ABC News (Australia)
May 31, 2012
Julian Assange's lawyers have been given two weeks to consider their next move after the Australian Wikileaks founder's appeal against extradition to Sweden was rejected by the UK's Supreme Court.
Last night the seven-judge panel ruled five to two that Mr. Assange's extradition appeal be dismissed and he be extradited to be questioned over sexual assault allegations.
The panel decided Sweden's prosecutor was a judicial authority and therefore the European arrest warrant issued for Mr. Assange was valid.
Mr. Assange's lawyer Dinah Rose asked for 14 days to consider whether to apply to reopen the case on the grounds that the judgment referred to material that was not mentioned during the last hearing in February.
The judge granted the request, which is highly unusual in the three-year history of the Supreme Court.
"With the agreement of the respondent, the required period for extradition shall not commence until June 13, 2012," the Supreme Court said in a statement.
Mr. Assange, a 40-year-old Australian national, was not in the central London court for the judgment.
One of his supporters, journalist John Pilger, said Mr. Assange was "stuck in traffic" with his mother, who flew in from Australia for the verdict.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, an adviser to Mr. Assange's legal team, told "7.30" that the U.K. Supreme Court decision was inevitable and lawyers would now focus on taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
"The main issue is the European Court of Human Rights because that is the final court in Europe," he said.
"Certainly he has a reasonable prospect there, but it is unlikely that they would halt the extradition.
"There is a civil liberties issue, because the European warrant is a very draconian thing, and it's probably right in civil liberties terms that it should be issued by a judge rather than a prosecutor."
Mr. Assange does not deny that he had sex with two women in Sweden while attending a WikiLeaks seminar in August 2010.
But he insists the sex was consensual and argues there are political motives behind the attempts to extradite him.
The women accuse him of rape and sexual assault.
Mr. Assange shot to global fame after WikiLeaks enraged Washington by leaking thousands of secret U.S. documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and later leaked thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.
He believes his extradition to Sweden could pave the way for extradition to the U.S. on possible espionage or conspiracy charges relating to the leaked documents.
'WE'RE NOT INVOLVED'
Mr. Robertson said an American grand jury had been sitting on Mr. Assange for 18 months and could indict him at any point.
"He's far more vulnerable to an attempt to extradite him to America, where of course he will face very serious charges under the Espionage Act," he said.
But U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich has rejected those concerns, saying any suggestion of a secret U.S. warrant against Mr Assange is an invention.
"There's absolutely no basis for the U.S. to be interested in this," he said. "We're not involved."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government would continue to offer Mr. Assange consular assistance.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Government had been weak on the issue of assisting Mr. Assange, and could be doing more to help him.
"They need to decide whether their allegiances are with Washington or the Australian public, which is, as someone has already said, actually very strongly in support of Julian and his colleagues."
|< Prev||Next >|