LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden over sex crimes claims, a judge said Thursday. Assange’s lawyer said he would appeal against the ruling to the High Court.
Judge Howard Riddle ruled that the allegations of rape and sexual molestation by two women are extraditable offences and a Swedish warrant was properly issued.
Assange has been out on bail during the extradition fight, and has seven days to appeal the ruling.
Riddle said “there is simply no reason to believe there has been a mistake” about the arrest warrant.
Assange’s lawyers have questioned Sweden’s judicial process and expressed concern their client risks being handed over to the U.S., which is investigating whether Assange’s website should be held responsible for leaking classified information.
Lawyers for Sweden have argued that authorities made repeated attempts to interview Assange while he was in Scandinavia, but to no avail.
In his ruling, the judge attacked the defence case against extradition point by point. He said he was satisfied that the crimes Assange is accused of extraditable offences, and rejected the claim that comments made against Assange by prosecutors and politicians in Sweden would pervert the course of justice.
Assange’s lawyers have said that Sweden’s custom of hearing rape cases behind closed doors meant he would not get a fair trial. Riddle said the practice was common in Sweden.
About a dozen WikiLeaks and Assange supporters in ski hats and parkas gathered outside the court hours before the hearing on a damp morning, hanging banners and signs saying “Free Julian Assange and Bradley Manning,” the young U.S. Army private suspected of leaking the documents.