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1 Feb, 2012 06:22

Assange makes last-ditch attempt to remain in UK

The founder of WikiLeaks has appealed his extradition to Sweden at Britain’s Supreme Court. Julian Assange is accused of committing sex crimes against two women in 2010, though he insists the case against him is politically motivated.

Assange is presenting his case in front of seven judges who will be looking at a number of key questions. First is whether the European arrest warrant that was issued for him by the Swedish prosecutor is valid. Julian Assange's defense is attempting to argue that the warrant is invalid because it was issued by a prosecutor rather than a neutral judge.  The Swedish prosecutor is a party in the case, so she cannot be a judicial authority, Dinah Rose, speaking for Assange, has argued.  Assange’s case rests on the fact that in Britain, as well as in the United States, only judges can issue arrest warrants. British courts only honor warrants issued by what they describe as judicial authorities, i.e, a judge or a court. The second key question is whether the Swedish prosecutor can legally issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW). And this could, in fact, call into question the entire system of European arrest warrants under which people can be extradited within Europe, having little or no evidence presented against them. Lawyers for Sweden argue that in Sweden, as in other European countries, prosecutors play the same role in the process as judges, and thus they have the power to issue warrants. Clare Montgomery, speaking for Sweden, will give her full arguments on Thursday.The Supreme Court hearings are expected to last for two days with a verdict being delivered some weeks later, according to the court. That could mean anything from two to 10 weeks. Assange’s lawyers argue that back in December 2010, the famous whistleblower was detained on an invalid arrest warrant. If he fails and the Supreme Court rejects his appeal, Julian Assange might take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This two-day hearing could literally be the last chance for Assange to fight his extradition and persuade British judges to cancel efforts to send him to Sweden to be questioned over the accusations of sexual assault and rape. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, there is a possibility he could then be extradited on to the US, where some politicians have branded him a cyber-terrorist and have called for the death penalty.  Sweden has a bilateral agreement with the United States which would allow it to surrender Julian Assange without going through the traditional checks and balances of regular “extradition” procedures.In the US Assange is accused of "aiding the enemy" with the help of Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old soldier accused of leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks, who has been kept in long-term solitary confinement in a US jail.The US government insists it has witnesses linking Manning to Assange and WikiLeaks, including chat logs between the soldier and others in which he discussed the website.RT’s Laura Smith reported from the steps of the Supreme Court as some of Assange’s supporters arrived there as early as five o’clock in the morning.