U.K. Court Backs Julian Assange's Extradition

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court in London backed a ruling that would extradite Julian Assange to Sweden where he faces accusations of sex crimes.

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Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has suffered a big setback in his effort to avoid being returned to Sweden. There, he's wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations.

Britain's Supreme Court has thrown out his appeal against extradition, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

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PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Remember this? Julian Assange being freed on bail after more than a week in the Victorian-era Wandsworth Prison in London. Back then, Assange was a global celebrity, feted as a hero by many, but deeply resented by some for using his WikiLeaks website to publish sensitive and sometimes embarrassing State Department cables, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.

That was nearly 18 months ago. Assange was just beginning his fight against extradition from Britain to Sweden. Today, Britain's Supreme Court ruled that extradition could go ahead. Assange's lawyers had argued the European arrest warrant against him was illegal because it came from a Swedish prosecutor. It should have come from a judge or a court, they said.

The Supreme Court disagreed. Its president, Nicolas Phillips, said five of the court's seven judges ruled the warrant is valid.

NICOLAS PHILLIPS: Follows that the request for Mr. Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed.

REEVES: Assange wasn't there. We got the news not hoped for, he tweeted afterwards. He now has 14 days to seek to challenge the decision. Assange could also try to apply to the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, he'll remain on bail. He's been living in an English country mansion owned by a friend.

Assange's star has dimmed since the start of this affair. He's fallen out with supporters. He's not been charged with any crime, yet he's being criticized for refusing to return to Sweden to answer his accusers. Assange maintains the allegations against him, which include rape, are untrue and politically motivated. His WikiLeaks website has faded, partly because of a donations blockade by credit card companies.

But Assange's extradition battle is not yet over. One way or another, he will return to the limelight.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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