A UK court ordered that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about sexual-assault allegations, dealing a serious blow to the document-leaking site and its founder. An extrade to Sweden might result in Mr. Assange ending up at Guantanamo Bay, his laywers says.
The decision means that Mr. Assange’s efforts to build and promote WikiLeaks will be detoured to some degree in coming months by the possibility that he will face criminal sex charges. WikiLeaks has gained notoriety with governments around the world through its release of thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables, the writes.
On Thursday afternoon, the judge released Mr. Assange on the same bail conditions he has been living under since December, which require him to wear an electronic monitoring tag, report to police every day and live at a supporter’s estate northeast of London, where he must abide by a curfew.
WikiLeaks is already struggling with a number of problems, which could intensify as Mr. Assange is distracted by his legal saga.
Arguing against his extradition, Mr. Assange’s lawyers said he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Sweden, where they say he has been vilified in the press.
They say Mr. Assange tried to meet with Swedish prosecutors several times before leaving Sweden, but was rebuffed.
They also argued that the sexual offenses alleged don’t rise to a level that merit extradition proceedings in the UK.
But the UK court said it appeared possible that Mr. Assange had tried to evade questioning while he was in Sweden. Judge Howard Riddle called all four alleged offenses extraditable, and says he was confident Mr. Assange would receive a fair trial in Sweden if he is charged.
The extradition hearing began in early February.
At one point, Mr. Assange’s lawyers published their defense strategy online, including several paragraphs about how he shouldn’t be extradited to Sweden because there was a “real risk” he would then be extradited or “illegally rendered” to the US, where his lawyers argued he could face the death penalty or imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay.
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