Julian Assange extradition judgment due on Wednesday
The Wikileaks founder will hear if he’s to become a free man after an 11-month bail or removed to Sweden within 14 days
Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley in the high court are due to hand down their judgment in the 40-year-old Australian’s appeal against a European arrest warrant. The warrant was issued by Swedish prosecutors after rape and sexual assault accusations made by two Swedish women following his visit to Stockholm in August 2010.
The high court said the verdict would be issued at 9.45am at the royal courts of justice in what is expected to be another media circus surrounding the hacker turned freedom-of-information activist.
The July extradition appeal hearings were packed with Assange supporters including John Pilger and legal onlookers such as Helena Kennedy QC, as well as a battalion of international journalists and Assange supporters.
If the court finds in Assange’s favour he could become a free man after 11 months living under strict bail conditions in the Norfolk home of Frontline Club owner, Vaughan Smith.
Conversely, he could be removed to Sweden within 14 days of the judgement.
The status of the warrant means that he would have no recourse to the Home Office, according to Julian Knowles, a barrister at Matrix Chambers who has been following the case.
Legal observers believe it is likely that whatever the verdict, either side will seek permission to appeal to the supreme court in London on the grounds that a wider legal principle is at stake. That could see Assange continue on bail into next year, possibly under relaxed conditions, which is the earliest his case is likely to reach the highest court in Britain.
For either Assange or the Swedish prosecutor to take the case to the supreme court, the high court must first be convinced there is a wider issue of „public importance“ at stake in the decision. If the case is won or lost on the basis of fact rather than legal opinion, this is less likely to be granted, Knowles said.
The verdict comes amid growing uncertainty for Assange’s whistleblowing website which in the past 18 months has published hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 250,000 classified diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world.
This week it said it could be forced to close in the new year thanks to a crippling funding blockade by major banks and credit card companies, which has seen its income plummet.
Assange said donations towards Wikileaks‘ work have never gone to the Swedish extradition case, nor would they in future if the organisation succeeded in a number of legal challenges to the blockade.
The Australian is facing enormous personal legal bills as a result of his extradition case, and is actively soliciting donations towards those costs. While PayPal has blocked donations to Wikileaks, it will still process payments towards Assange’s own legal bills.
Assange’s relationship with his former solicitors, led by Mark Stephens, ended in acrimony; he accused them of withholding the £412,000 advance for his autobiography to cover legal fees which he said arose from „extreme overcharging“. The solicitors, Finers Stephens Innocent, deny the accusation.