WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost a legal battle to stop him being extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to face accusations of sexual assault.
Speaking outside London’s High Court and flanked by supporters, the Australian maintained his innocence and questioned the arrest warrant used by the Swedish authorities demanding his return to Stockholm.
In bright sunshine on the court steps he said: “I have not been charged with any crime in any country. Despite this, the European Arrest Warrant is so restrictive it prevents UK courts from considering the facts of a case as judges have made clear here today. We will be considering our next step in the days ahead."
Mr. Assange, who is on bail, now has 14 days to consider an appeal to the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, but must get permission from the High Court to do so. If the request is rejected he will be escorted to Sweden to face a court there.
The allegations against Assange
The allegations arose during a 10-day visit to Scandinavia in August last year when one woman claimed she was raped by Assange and another that she was molested by him.
Assange was arrested in the UK last December under a European Arrest Warrant and released on bail, but ordered to wear an ankle tag and observe a night-time curfew. A number of famous friends and supporters such as British socialite Jemima Khan and filmmaker Ken Loach rallied round to pay the £200,000 ($320,000) bail which saw him residing at the London mansion of supporter and former army captain Vaughan Smith.
Assange has always denied the charges and claimed they were politically motivated and linked to his WikiLeaks whistleblowing website which has embarrassed governments and security agencies around the world.
How Assange became famous
He first came to prominence in April 2010 when WikiLeaks released the "Collateral Murder" video, which showed US air crews shooting civilians in Iraq in 2007.
Despite criticisms, more confidential documents were uploaded to the site which reached its peak last year when war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables were published, creating discomfort in capitals across the globe.
The man accused of leaking the Apache helicopter footage from Iraq and other documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, is still awaiting his first court hearing in the US charged with "aiding the enemy."
While he awaits trial, Assange has not been afraid to court publicity and claims the public has a right to know what is being done and said in their name. Two weeks ago he appeared at the Occupy the City protest at St Paul’s Cathedral in a mask, offering his support to the anti-capitalist campaigners.
But his website is now in crisis and running on cash reserves after what he claims was an "arbitrary and unlawful financial blockade" imposed by Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Western Union last December.