The highest court in the UK ruled yesterday on a 5-2 majority that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on accusations of rape and sexual assault.
I spoke about the UK court ruling on The Madeleine Brand Show, and you can listen here.
Assange denies the charges. In a statement released 12 hours before the court's decision, Wikileaks said "The United States is seeking to charge Julian
Assange - a journalist and publisher - with espionage," and "The US Grand Jury reportedly possesses a sealed indictment, which could be used to extradite Assange to the United States."
Assange and his supporters maintain that the Sweden case is effectively a ruse to bring him one step closer to the US, where a grand jury has reportedly convened to investigate a case against him. Details on those legal developments are murky (such is the way with secret grand juries), so it's hard to substantiate the direct claims made by Wikileaks. Worth noting: the UK also has extradition agreements with the US, and it's not clear that bringing him to Sweden would make things substantially easier for the US, if this truly were the plan.
Assange was arrested in the UK in December, 2010 over the Swedish sexual assault allegations, and out on bail under strict movement limitations for more than 500 days without having been charged with any crime. The UK supreme court is the third court to rule against him in efforts to avoid extradition. He's running out of legal options.
But this week's court's ruling doesn't mean he'll be extradited anywhere immediately. Assange's legal team has until June 13 to appeal the ruling with the UK court, and another possible option awaits: an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
At Salon, Wikileaks supporter Glenn Greenwald writes that "Whatever one’s discomfort with Assange’s supposed personal flaws, that must not deter anyone from standing against what would truly be an odious indictment for the publication by WikiLeaks of critical information in the public interest."
Of course, Assange hasn't been indicted with anything by the US yet. But a number of people associated with Wikileaks have been repeatedly harassed, detained, and "watched" by US agencies. The US has sought to access their electronic records through more visible routes, too: even Twitter.
And accused Wikileaks leak source Bradley Manning has been in prison for 2 years now, enduring cruel and unusual punishment for much of that time. He is currently on what amounts to a secret military trial.
For now, the only legal matter in motion for Assange involves sexual assault accusations by two young women who were, at one time, his fans. And even in that case, he has not yet been charged with a crime.
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