Assange loses appeal against extradition

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost a court appeal on Wednesday to block his extradition to Sweden to face questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.

The 40-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain in December and was appealing at the High Court in London against a lower court ruling in February that he should be sent to Sweden.

"The court dismissed the appeal," the judgement said, before detailing the four counts on which Assange had appealed, which were all dismissed.

Assange had argued that because the European Arrest Warrant under which he was held was issued by a prosecutor, not a court, it was invalid, but the judges ruled it had been subject to independent judicial scrutiny in Sweden.

They also rejected his assertion that the claims made by two women of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and an accusation of rape would not as they were described be considered offences under English law.

One woman alleged that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep, and the judges rejected his lawyers' contention that consent to sex on condition that a condom was used remained consent when a condom was not used.

"There is nothing in the statement from which it could be inferred that he reasonably expected that she would have consented to sex without a condom," the court judgement said.

"It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did," it added.

Assange has denied the allegations, claiming they are linked to the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents which have enraged governments across the world, especially the United States.

He also questioned the validity of the arrest warrant because he was not charged in Sweden, only wanted for questioning, but the judges rejected this, saying the case against him was clear.

"There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced," the judgement said.

The final ground of appeal was that the arrest warrant was disproportionate, given that Assange had offered to be questioned via videolink, but the court also dismissed this.

© 2011 AFP

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