Julian Assange's long-running battle against extradition comes to a climax at Britain's Supreme Court this week, and legal experts say that the WikiLeaks founder faces long odds.
Assange has already failed twice in his bid to block his extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations stemming from a trip there in mid-2010. The two-day hearing which begins Wednesday is the last chance his lawyers have to persuade a British court not to send him to Scandinavia.
"I don't think he'll succeed," said Peter Caldwell, an extradition lawyer familiar with Assange's legal submission. European arrest warrants are difficult to beat, and Caldwell argued that while Assange's case was "well-argued ... it doesn't get beyond the obligation of the UK to give effect to European law."
Assange is celebrated by some as a champion of transparency and reviled by others as an enemy of the US government, but the argument before the Supreme Court has nothing to do with his career as an online whistleblower or even the merits of the Swedish sex allegations which Assange has always denied.
The Supreme Court justices are being asked to rule on a purely technical question: Is the European arrest warrant a valid one?
Assange's legal team argues that it isn't.
In Britain as in the United States, generally only judges can approve arrest warrants. In this case, the warrant was issued by Sweden's public prosecutor. Assange's lawyers argue that the Swedish system is unfair because it puts the power to issue arrest warrants in the hands of the same prosecutors who are trying to put him in jail.
Karen Todner, another prominent extradition specialist, said that Assange's lawyers were unlikely to overcome the benefit of the doubt usually afforded to other European countries' judicial systems.
British judges "absolutely defer" to their European counterparts' justice systems, she said, adding that she would be "very surprised" if Assange's team won the day.
Judges will hear two days of arguments before making their decision, which is not expected for another several weeks.