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British apex court clears the decks for Assange extradition

world Updated: May 31, 2012 01:55 IST

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Britain’s Supreme Court has endorsed the extradition of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange to Sweden, bringing the secret-spilling Internet activist a big step closer to prosecution in a Scandinavian court.

Assange, 40, has spent the better part of two years fighting attempts to send him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in sex crime allegations. He has not been charged there.

The UK side of that struggle appeared to come to a messy end Wednesday, with the nation’s highest court ruling 5-2 that the warrant seeking his arrest was properly issued and Assange’s lawyer arguing that the case should be reopened.

Supreme Court President Nicholas Phillips, speaking for the majority, acknowledged that Assange’s case “has not been simple to resolve,” but that the court had ultimately concluded that “the request for Assange’s extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed.”

Assange won’t be sent to Sweden immediately no matter what happens. His lawyer, Dinah Rose, stood up after the verdict to say that court’s ruling was based on evidence that was not argued during the appeal, requesting time to study the verdict further with an eye toward trying to reopen the case.

Phillips said he would give Rose two weeks to decide.

Even if the Supreme Court refuses to revisit its judgment, Assange could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, although extradition experts have said such a manoeuver would be unlikely to block his removal to Sweden for long.