WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has vowed to continue to battle against extradition after a judge ruled he should be sent to Sweden to face sex offence charges.
The 39-year-old Australian is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and raping another during a week-long visit to Stockholm in August. He denies any wrongdoing but Swedish authorities want him sent back to the country to face justice.
Announcing his decision at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in south-east London, District Judge Howard Riddle said extraditing Assange to Sweden would not breach his human rights. He also disagreed with defence lawyers’ claims that what Assange is accused of doing would not actually amount to rape in this country.
And he dismissed the argument that the whistleblower would not receive a fair trial, despite the swirl of negative publicity surrounding the case.
In the event of an extradition request by the US, the consent of the Home Secretary would be necessary, he said. Assange’s lawyers have previously expressed fears that he could be extradited to the US from Sweden.
Speaking outside court, Assange said the ruling had come as little surprise and launched an impassioned attack on the European arrest warrant system. The judge’s decision came as a result of “a European arrest warrant system run amok”, he claimed.
He said: “There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merit of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden and of course we have always known we would appeal.”
Some 95% of European arrest warrants were successful, he said, and he welcomed a pending review of UK extradition procedures due in June. This, he hoped, would “deal with some of those abuses of European arrest warrants in law and for abuses relating to other countries such as the United States”.
He also reiterated his wish that his own case be used to shed light on “abuses” of the system.
But he denied saying the CIA or the Pentagon were lurking behind the allegations against him. “I have never stated who or what was behind those initial allegations other than to say they were simply untrue,” he said.