Assange loses legal battle on extradition to Sweden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault claims, a British judge ruled on Thursday after dismissing arguments that he would face an unfair trial. Lawyers for Assange immediately said they would appeal against the decision and a legal battle through Britain’s appeal courts could postpone the 39-year-old Australian’s ultimate fate for months.

“I must order that Mr Assange be extradited to Sweden,” judge Howard Riddle said in a decision at the top security Belmarsh Magistrates Court in southeast London. Assange, wearing a dark suit and tie, sat stony-faced in the dock as the decision was read out. Celebrity backers, including socialite Jemima Khan and rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, were also in the court along with 100 journalists from around the world.

Former computer hacker Assange says the claims against him, made by two women he met during a seminar organization by the whistleblowing website in August last year, are politically motivated because of the work of WikiLeaks. Assange rocked the world’s diplomatic institutions and infuriated Washington last year when WikiLeaks began releasing more than 250,0000 secret diplomatic cables sent by US embassy staff. It also published sensitive data on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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